The American Folklife Center is happy to announce that we’ll be kicking off the 2023 Homegrown concert series with a solo performance by the banjo player, fiddler, and singer Jake Blount, an award-winning musician and a scholar of African American musical traditions. Blount’s performance will be part of Live! at the Library, the special series featuring extended visiting hours and special programming every Thursday night. It will also be part of the Black History Month celebrations at the Library of Congress and is presented in cooperation with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington. The concert will occur at 6:00 pm in the Members Room, LJ-162 on the first floor of the Library’s historic Thomas Jefferson Building. The concert is free, but visitors will require a free timed-entry pass to the Library, which can be reserved at this link starting 30 days before the concert. Live at the Library festivities begin at 5:00 pm and the concert is at 6:00. When reserving your pass, please select the entry time closest to when you think you’ll arrive at the Library.
A talented musician and eloquent speaker, Jake Blount speaks ardently about the African roots of the banjo and the subtle, yet profound ways African Americans have shaped and defined roots music and Americana. He highlights the Black and Indigenous histories of popular American folk tunes, as well as reviving songs unjustly forgotten in the whitewashing of the canon. His 2020 album Spider Tales was named one of the year’s best albums by NPR and The New Yorker, and earned a perfect 5-star review from The Guardian.
Jake Blount’s most recent album, The New Faith, presents spiritual music, filled with hope for salvation and righteous anger in equal measure. A fascinating journey into dystopian Afrofuturism, the album takes us to an island in Maine populated by Black refugees after the collapse of global civilization due to catastrophic climate change. it presents songs of resilience, their bones imbued with the spirit of survivors – the ancestors who endured slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality, the impacts of a pandemic that has disproportionately affected communities of color – and their strength is the music’s lasting impression. Blount, like his heroes Octavia Butler and N.K. Jemisin, uses parables of the future as a lens to investigate the present with a brutal but affecting honesty. The New Faith contains many prayers, but one of the most moving is a simple address to one’s own kin: “My brother, don’t you give up the world.”
Jake Blount is a Washington, D.C. native who draws on historical sources for his music, including civil rights activist and organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, trailblazer and queer icon Sister Rosetta Tharpe, and peerlessly expressive gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. Importantly for us at AFC, he also draws on archival recordings, and about half of the songs on The New Faith were sourced from field recordings in our collections in the American Folklife Center archive at the Library of Congress. AFC is therefore thrilled to work with other Library offices and with the Folklore Society of Greater Washington to bring both Jake Blount and his songs home to the Library of Congress. We hope to see you there!