El Bicho's Hive

A Collection of Reviews Covering the Worlds of Art and Entertainment alongside other Snobbish Ramblings.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Fat Possum Records

Guy Blakeslee goes by the name Entrance, and Wandering Stranger, his debut album on Fat Possum Records, is a fantastic collection of traveling songs presented with Entrance’s own unique twist on blues and roots music.

Right from the opening track, “Train is Leaving,” his sound informs you that he’s going to take you to your favorite hangout but he will be using a different route to get there. The song’s story is familiar, but the guitar isn’t. It’s not your usual straightforward blues guitar. There is an influence from alternative music of the ‘80s that affects his playing, creating an odd, eerie, yet always compelling sound whenever he plays electric. He is a self-taught guitarist playing left-handed on a right-handed guitar turned upside down, which probably has an affect on his sound as well.

The next track “Rex’s Blues” quickly shifts gears. It has more of a conventional country/roots sound with just an acoustic guitar and fiddle, but that’s to be expected since this is a cover of a Townes Van Zandt song.

There’s an intimacy to the recordings because you hear some in-studio commentary a la The Beatles' Let It Be. On “Wandering Stranger” he asks for the tape to be kept rolling, but he’s so into performing the song that at the end he asks the engineer if the song was recorded. There’s also a funny moment on “Honey in the Rock” where his hair gets caught in the mike, but it’s unclear if the song was over or if it was cut short. The song works regardless.

Entrance is not what you would consider a great singer, but that adds an “everyman” quality to the songs. If he were a great singer, it would ruin the strength and accessibility of the songs. He warbles, yodels and even veers into a falsetto at times; whatever it takes to capture the feeling of the stories he’s telling. He knows these stories so well that his new lyrics blend seamlessly into the traditional songs. Even though the listener knows there’s no hellhound on his trail, Entrance sings with a power and authenticity that makes you forget he’s a white kid from Baltimore.