Today we are pleased to present an artist we only recently discovered. Hailing from Somerset, England, her sound is universally accessible, straddling several genres that meet our ears well. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, Ruth Blake may be exploring territory well known to artists such as Dido and Yael Naem, but also Laura Marling and Nathalie Merchant, but she’s mapping a path all of her own in that wide expanse. Her new single ‘Brave Ships’ is inspired by the warm, rich tones and strong rhythmic grooves of the 1970s.
And we also have the b-side for this release, titled ‘I Am’. This is also a stunning offering and a very different facet to the upbeat side that we see from Blake in the title track. What can we say? A lot, but let’s keep it succinct here – after all, we’re all here for the music. A beautiful discovery of an extremely talented artist with an uplifting spirit, a contagious positive energy, beautiful voice and timbre, and meaningful message with impressive depth.
Both tracks were mastered by Shawn Joseph (Portishead, Jonny Greenwood, PJ Harvey, Bat for Lashes, Peter Green).
Originally from the Midlands, the mists and vales of Somerset inspires Blake to create multi-faceted folk music that stirs the soul, rich with symbol and storytelling. ‘Using ‘music as medicine’, this is poignant, lyrical, poetic and even sacred. A reflection of her soul, these compositions are deep and spacious. Richly bittersweet, this is overflowing with love, creativity and reverence.
‘Brave Ships’ was conceived in the autumn of 2019 at the home of Ashley Jenkins, a severely disabled swimmer and radio host who regularly inspires his fans to ‘never give up on their dreams’. “He’s a beloved friend and I’m sure it is no coincidence that Brave Ships entered the world through the portal of his home,” says Ruth Blake.
“It was just after the peak of Extinction Rebellion activity, a few months before the Covid pandemic struck. I felt deep love of the earth and a desire to see a paradigm shift in the way we relate to the natural world and indeed the world in general. I was riding difficult inner conflicts, asking myself what I felt was being asked of me as we head into the stormy waters of this unique time in human history. It was then that I re-read an exquisite piece of writing entitled ‘Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times’ by one of my all-time favourite authors – Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who noted that a “soul on deck shines like gold in dark times”. The letter struck me anew, rich with symbolic beacons of hopes set amongst the paradoxes of life, reassuring us heartily that we are seaworthy vessels no matter how ragged our flags have become.”
While also self-taught, Blake received an unusual musical education from the eccentric and pioneering Young Steinway Artist, composer, pianist and multi-instrumentalist, Edward Chilvers, who persistently encouraged her to believe in herself and develop her gift for music. “Each song is a bit like untangling a complicated knot – the process is utterly obsessive, and somehow inevitable,” says Blake.
In 2015, Blake crowdfunded and released her own debut album of subtle yet poignant folk music – ‘Lullabies for Grown-Ups’, followed by her colourful second studio album ‘Creation’ in 2018. Lyrically profound and musically sophisticated, Ruth’s music is born out of her own passion for self-knowledge and the deeper truths of existence.
A member of the Music as Medicine collective and Brightsky Community, she has performed at various festivals. She has recorded at Real World Studios with the enigmatic James Frost, and has been collaborating with Manchester dark-funk 8-piece ensemble Caulbearers, including for their 2020 single ‘Over Comes a Cloud’. A natural progression, Blake collaborated with Damien Mahoney, the driving force behind Caulbearers, who produced and engineered it at his attic studio in Old Trafford. With a creative output ranging from funk, soul and reggae to acid house and Balearic dub, he has collaborated with John Ellis (Cinematic Orchestra, The Breath), Rob Turner (GoGo Penguin), Julie Gordon (Happy Mondays) and producer Seadna Mcphail (Badly Drawn Boy, Doves, Jah Wobble, Everything Everything). He has also remixed RnB artist Faith Evans for EMI.
‘Brave Ships’ is available for digital download via Apple Music, as well as streaming platforms such as Spotify. It can also be obtained directly from the artist via Bandcamp. While you’re here, why not also buy Ruth a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/ruthblake?
Written by Ruth Blake
Recorded, Produced & Mixed by Damien Mahoney in his attic studio ‘Padded Cell’ in Old Trafford, Manchester
Mastered by Shawn Joseph (Portishead, Jonny Greenwood, PJ Harvey, Bat for Lashes, Peter Green)
All Vocals and acoustic guitar – Ruth Blake
Drums – Rob Turner (Gogo Penguin)
Fretless bass – Dave Tompkins (Johnny Dangerously, Mike Hope’s Jazzmahoot, Mojito)
Cello, viola, violin – Alan Keary (Shunya)
Guitar, Harmonium and piano – Pete Barrett (Colourfield, John Cooper Clark & Pauline Murray)
The accompanying video was filmed by Paul Blakemore on Sand Bay.