Under The Influence – Blair Dunlop
In the first of a new series we ask singers and musicians what their most influential formative song or album was (in the hope that there may be some surprising revelations).
I think it’s important to listen to everything, but if I have to pick one … probably Late for the Sky by Jackson Browne would be the album. Obviously there’s lots of Richard’s [Thompson] stuff and lots of Fairport’s stuff, but if I had to pick one album it would be Late for the Sky. For starters it’s eight tracks, but it’s eight amazing tracks with no filler. I love every single track. I think I saw in writing once someone describe Jackson Browne as the first, or most prominent, singer-songwriter to teach men about how sensitive they are. I can definitely relate to that.
I first heard Jackson’s stuff through my dad – he would have played it to me. I think actually Phil Beer got him into it in the eighties. While Jackson and the West Coast stuff was going on in the seventies, dad was working for the National Theatre. He was wrapped up in that and wrapped up in traditional English stuff. Phil had grown up loving David Lindley’s playing (Jackson’s right-hand man on Late for the Sky as well) and through osmosis: dad played me Jackson’s and David Lindley’s stuff and I also found it through similar artists on that West Coast scene. I love Warren Zevon. I almost picked Excitable Boy by Warren Zevon.
Late for the Sky is melodically beautiful, it’s lyrically beautiful and I love the production values. Now there’s a nostalgia attached to it because I listened to it a lot when I was first making my way … doing those gigs, traipsing up and down the country … often I was listening to Late for the Sky. It’s sensitive without being contrived and it never tires to me. Context-wise, I wasn’t around for it, but by all accounts America post-Vietnam – ‘For a Dancer’, track 6, for example – encapsulates the inquisition of the human mind, death and themes around that and I think Late for the Sky 1975, maybe 1977 [it’s actually 1974], was a very important album contextually.
Blair Dunlop’s second album, House of Jacks, is out now.