“Here are 20 years of recordings,” runs the short blurb on Karl Blau’s Bandcamp page. “Check ‘em out - no two alike!” He’s not wrong. There are lo-fi excursions into afrobeat, campfire folk. disjointed post-punk and comforting indie rock without ever resorting to straight-up pranksterism.
Country songs tell us how we got to where we are. Case in point, “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” the 1969 song by Tom T. Hall that opens Karl Blau’s tremendous new covers record, Introducing Karl Blau. In the song, the narrator arrives in Memphis over and over, drawn repeatedly by love and looping the song’s title as a cathartic refrain.
The past isn't revived on Introducing Karl Blau. Instead, it's recontextualized by Martine as a showcase for a truly gifted song interpreter. Blau places himself completely in the producer's hands, and digs into these lyrics and charts for all he's worth, delivering a gem as timeless as its songs..
The covers album holds a strange place in modern music. Once the norm, these days they tend to be considered a stop-gap or novelty, yet they can often prove illuminating, either asa revealing insight into the influences of an artist or a gentle introduction via familiar material. Introducing serves both of these purposes. Still best known for his associations with Phil Elvrum and Laura Viers, Blau is a prolific song-writer himself, seemingly defined by a high-wire, restless approach to creativity and lack of regard for genre boundaries.
Introducing Karl Blau is a collection of Country & Western classics given a new breath of cinematic life thanks to the North-Western vocalist. Blau is an established name in his local scene, having released over 40 records in the last 20 years. Now that Bella Union have got wind of his heart-warming vocals, however, it's easy to imagine that the name might become a little more commonplace in the independent music scene this side of the Atlantic.