When Jake Blount stumbled upon a banjo performance in an Ethiopian restaurant around a decade ago, he instantly fell in love with the instrument. Now you’ll instantly fall in love with him — banjoist, fiddler, singer, scholar, and entertainer — as he explores the folk traditions of Black and indigenous Americans. A recipient of the prestigious Steve Martin Banjo Prize, Blount will blend his “charismatic and limber” voice (The Guardian) with blues, bluegrass, and spirituals for a deeply fulfilling musical experience.
Jake Blount (pronounced: blunt) is an award-winning interpreter of Black folk music based in Providence, RI. Initially recognized for his skill as a string band musician, Blount has charted an unprecedented, Afrofuturist course on his pilgrimage through sound archives and song collections. In his hands, the banjo, fiddle, electric guitar and synthesizer become ceremonial objects used to channel the insurgent creativity of his forebears. From transfixing solo sets to full-band festival appearances complete with crowd-surfing and ecstatic chants, Blount’s performances – like his recent Smithsonian Folkways release, The New Faith – seamlessly merge centuries-old traditional songs with the trappings and techniques of modern Black genres. This “genrequeer” approach to the traditions has earned his music a place in the very same archives from which he extracts his repertoire. In defiance of genre categories, revisionist histories and linear time, Blount fashions an “Afrofuturist folklore” that disintegrates the boundaries between acoustic and electric, artist and medium, and ancestor and progeny.
Balancing his taste for arcane source material with his desire to reach diverse audiences, Blount has shared his music at venues including the Kennedy Center, Newport Folk Festival, the Library of Congress and NPR’s Tiny Desk. His knowledge and skill have deepened over the course of his still-young career, and his vision has grown more ambitious – but his music has only grown in popular appeal. Blount’s debut solo record, Spider Tales, was ranked among the best of 2020 by outlets including Bandcamp and The New Yorker. NPR, The Guardian, Rolling Stone and more named The New Faith one of the best roots releases of 2022. With the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, two International Folk Music Awards nominations and two first-place ribbons from Clifftop already under his belt, Blount’s star continues to rise.
Blount’s thoughtful musicianship has made him a sought-after collaborator. He has contributed to recordings by Adia Victoria, Dave Hause, Adeem The Artist and others, opened for GRAMMY-winners Rhiannon Giddens and Molly Tuttle, and traveled the world as a member of old-time groups Tui and The Moose Whisperers. He regularly shares the stage with skilled contemporaries such as Mali Obomsawin, George Jackson, Nic Gareiss, Laurel Premo, and Tatiana Hargreaves.
In addition to his public-facing achievements, Blount has an impressive industry track record. He has performed as an official showcase artist at Folk Alliance International, SXSW, AmericanaFest and the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass. He was a 2020 Strathmore Artist In Residence, and participated in the IBMA’s Leadership Bluegrass program in the same year. An emeritus board member of Bluegrass Pride, Blount is known as a strong advocate for progressive causes within the music industry, and appears regularly on conference panels pertaining to social and environmental justice. His writings on music and issues facing the industry have appeared in publications including Rolling Stone, NPR, Paste Magazine and No Depression.
Blount is also a skilled educator. In addition to his on-stage offerings, his engagements frequently include lectures and presentations pertaining to both his original research and the history of Black string band music. He has shared this work at Yale University, Berklee College of Music, the Smithsonian Institution and elsewhere. He also makes regular appearances at music camps, most notably Earful of Fiddle Music & Dance Camp, offering hands-on instruction in fiddle and banjo. In the fall of 2023, Blount will begin working toward a Ph.D. in Musicology and Ethnomusicology from Brown University.