Blair Dunlop has impeccable music credentials. By Brian Wise.
It is difficult to imagine that Blair Dunlop could have been anything other than a musician. His father is legendary folk musician Ashley Hutchings, founding member of Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and The Albion Band.
At the age of 23 Dunlop – who is here to appear at the Port Fairy, Brunswick Music Festival and the Blue Mountains Festival – has not only followed in his father’s footsteps by taking over the Albion Band from his father but his debut album Blight & Blossom was awarded the 2013 BBC2 Folk Horizon Award.
“I suppose the privilege of it is that you get to always be surrounded by music,” says Dunlop when asked about his upbringing. “I’ve never really pushed into it, there was always music around the house. My mom singing, my dad singing and stuff. For me it’s not up to that it’s the last couple of years I have been shaking that off. I only feel the positives right now.”
Though he doesn’t use the same surname as his father, the family connections came to bear when Richard Thompson gave Dunlop the song ‘Seven Brothers’ for his debut album.
“It’s an absolute privilege,” says Dunlop of the opportunity to record Thompson’s song. “Because he is just second to none for me. He is without doubt the biggest song writing influence on my life. I never met him but it’s really nice to have him trust me with the song.”
“He is a musician’s musician and he is a writer’s writer,” continues Blair about Thompson, “and people love to cover his songs. This song was literally an unreleased ballad that he had and he said would you like to have a listen.”
But Thompson is just one of the influences coming to bear on Dunlop’s music. He is also a great fan of Jackson Browne and the whole West Coast music scene
“It’s unbelievable,” says Dunlop of the Jackson Browne debut album (also known as Saturate Before Using) explaining that he was just packing it for his most recent trip.
“I got For Everyman on vinyl the other day,” he says, “and that was ace and I’ve been playing ‘These Days’ and I’m thinking that might be a bonus track on the new record. It’s not just Jackson – David Lindley is a big hero of mine as well – his right hand man on fiddle and slide. In terms of musicality and not just pure technical ability but accompanying a songwriter and accompanying a song he is unparalleled.
“I looked at them and Warren Zevon and quite a lot of the West Coast guys and I thought that was really good music coming out of Asylum Records and that was really big for me in the last few years.
“I suppose in terms of Blight & Blossom and the new album I think that there is a common theme that it’s kind of a Transatlantic influence on them. I’m big on the British roots and folk music but then also my American tendencies and song writing influences. There is a bit of a Transatlantic thing going on there.”
Blight & Blossom is available through Rooksmere Records.
Blair Dunlop plays the Brunswick Music Festival, March 14-16 and Blue Mountains Music Festival.