People, Places And Songs
West Virginia-born Greg Blake, a remarkable singer, accomplished flat picker and long-time member of the band, Special Consensus, has been playing music nearly his entire life. But for three decades his singing and picking played second fiddle while he served as a pastor at various churches in the Midwest and West.
Now that he’s retired from the clergy and in his fifties, Blake is clearly making up for lost time in terms of raising his profile as a solo artist. He’s released two solo albums in the past six months.
Like its predecessor, last year’s The View from Home, his follow-up, People, Places and Songs hits hard in terms of both artistry and emotion.
Blake’s voice is smooth, subtle and full of irresistible charm and persuasiveness. It’s remarkable how he can, with what sounds like near-effortlessness, convey joyous celebration and stone-cold despair, along with all the mixed emotions that lie between.
You can hear the joy in the opening cut, “I’ll Be Loving You” (penned by David Stewart and Taylor Corum) and “The Christmas Cookies,” a heartwarming Yuletide remembrance cowritten by Tom Griffith and Martha Trachtenberg and featuring Andy Leftwich on guitar, mandolin and fiddle.
On the darker side, there’s “A Miner’s Tale” (Becky Buller, Michael Cleveland, Deborah Payne and Vicki Simmons). It’s a bitter commentary on a hazardous profession stained by a legacy of blood and tragedy.
There’s also “Not Far from Hope” (Blake and Jeff Walter), a chilling portrait of a couple stranded in what was once a near-perfect union of love and desire but has since disintegrated into a tangle of bitterness and estrangement.
“Cold Wyoming Morning” (Bobby Powell and David Stewart) portrays similar heartbreak and romantic irresolution set against the backdrop of a barren but beautiful western winter landscape.
On the wise and timely message song, “From Me to We” (Blake and Walter) Blake shares some great harmonies with an outfit called HeartLande. Blake and guest Clair Lynch also serve up a thrilling duet on the title tune, cowritten by Blake, Dawn Kenney and David Morris.