Jake Blount

Biography Jake Blount

Jake Blount

Jake Blount
is an award-winning musician and scholar based in Providence, RI. He is half of the internationally touring duo Tui, a 2020 recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, and a two-time winner of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival (better known as Clifftop). Blount, a specialist in the early folk music of Black Americans, is a skilled performer of spirituals, blues and string band repertoire. Blount has performed at the Kennedy Center, the Newport Folk Festival, and numerous other venues across and beyond the United States. He has presented his scholarly work at museums and universities including the Smithsonian Institution, Berklee College of Music and Yale University. His writing has appeared in Paste Magazine, No Depression, and NPR, and he has been a guest on Radiolab and Soundcheck. His first solo album, Spider Tales, debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart, received positive coverage from NPR, Rolling Stone and Billboard among others, and earned five out of five stars as The Guardian's Folk Album of the Month. Spider Tales later appeared on "Best of 2020" lists from NPR, Bandcamp, The New Yorker, the Guardian, and elsewhere. His latest album, The New Faith, is slated for release as part of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings' African American Legacy Series on September 23, 2022.

At age 12 he picked up the electric guitar, going on to play in local bands throughout his adolescence. On a fateful day when he was just 16, Jake heard Megan Jean and the KFB playing acoustic music in an Ethiopian restaurant. He was struck by their use of clawhammer banjo and their independence as full-time musicians, both of which helped inspire him to start playing acoustically.

A couple years later, Blount enrolled at Hamilton College to pursue a degree in Ethnomusicology with a focus on early African-American folk music. There he met Dr. Lydia Hamessley, who would go on to be his advisor as well as his mentor for banjo playing and old-time music. He picked up the fiddle in 2014 and continued to fully immerse himself in string band music and the music of Black communities in America. From there, Jake teamed up with his band the Moose Whisperers to compete in and ultimately win Clifftop Festival’s traditional band contest.

In 2017, Blount graduated with a B.A. in Ethnomusicology and released his debut EP, ‘Reparations’, with fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves. Since then, he’s released collaborative work with fiddle player Libby Weitnauer under the moniker Tui and a critically-acclaimed solo album, ‘Spider Tales’, that debuted at #2 on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart. He continues to be involved in the queer old-time community as a board member of Bluegrass Pride, and most recently received the Steve Martin Banjo Prize in 2020.

“On top of being wildly intelligent and knowledgeable, he's also a killer musician and it's an incredible combo.” - Rhiannon Giddens

“Jake Blount is a brilliant banjoist, fiddle player and singer... his fingering thrilling and pacy, his voice charismatic and limber.” - Jude Rogers, The Guardian

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