Rare or Unreleased 43: Guy Blakeslee

When he's not singing about ghosts or social phobia, against war or for civil rights, a recurring theme in Entrance a/k/a Guy Blakeslee's song-
writing is control. As in: not being controlled by your desire, in the form of the object of it. Written by a young man, many of his songs are about trying to ward a lover's possessiveness and neediness (traits equally typical, perhaps, of young girls) off your freedom. After all, love + need = power games. In Blakeslee's universe, freedom springs forth from truth, but is threatened, encroached or stifled at the other end by romance, rendering love anathema to life, but then life a hindrance to happiness. The resulting tension, frustration and confusion between love and independence is the source of some of the best (if most criminally ignored) new songwriting of the '00s, not only despite but also because it's not flashy or trying to be innovative. («Original» often being just another word for «soon-to-be-dated».)

Entrance—once a desperately wailing, loud and utterly liberating one man band—was one of the original exponents of «freak folk» (though he was always less whimsical and more blues oriented than über-freakie-folkie Devendra Banhart). His two last records have ventured into more instrumented, almost funky hard rock à la Led Zeppelin. No artist should stand still, and though Entrance's recent release and first record as a three-piece band is laudable for going off in a different direction, for those of us less inclined towards noodling space jams than down home acoustic laments and hoots'n'hollers, here are some older rarities by a solo Blakeslee, most of them intimate home recordings. None of them deserve to be rare, but rare they are. And here they are:

1. Pretty Baby

Echoes linger like some kind of aura of electricity whenever Blakeslee’s wails are drawn to the magnetic tape, as he bends the distortion to his will with the varying pitches and intensities of his wolfish howls. Nobody writes an ambivalent love song like Entrance—no frills, just the simplicity of archaic, barely literate blues lyrics trying to hold on to a spirit of independence in the face of Love. He even pulls off sarcasm without being overly bitter or coming across like just another clever, shallow hipster. (He’s caustic because it’s good for her. He's not about to kill with kindness.) Besides, anyone who could pen a line like, «Don’t let Jesus catch you like he has before / Tripping while you’re dancing on the bar room floor,» is a bona fide poet, and you better know it. And not to sound misogynistic, but this really is a liberating anthem for any male who has ever had to contend with clingy demands, draining emotions and cunning manipulation. Anyone who's ever dated a goth chick will know what he means. Son, leave those suicide girls well alone:

Pretty baby, all dressed up in black
Your make-up is on, and your hair's pulled back
But it ain't time no time to go out on the town
So take your black dress off, and let your long hair down…

From the out-of-print, self-released 13 Unreleased Songs 2002-2006 (2008). An upwards spiralling, full band studio version can be found on Prayer of Death (2006)

2. Valium Blues

Raga flamenco blues! Two studio versions of this song exist: the Led Zep-echoing, psychedelic acoustic version on debut album The Kingdom of Heaven Must Be Taken by Storm (2003), and the gypsy space rock band version on Prayer of Death. But this distorted demo version is perhaps the most unmercifully blistering run-through of this desperate but ultimately soothing love-song-by-way-of-insomnia:
I shouldn't waste my freedom on your worries
I must look out, my vision's getting blurry
But I've been lying sleepless
Until the light of the new day
Worried about how you're gonna change
Earlier tonight I was a stranger
In a fatal trance of lonely anger
Now I'm lost in visions and beholding
As the precious minutes keep unfolding
So please don't fear our love is ever-changing
My whole world could use some re-arranging

From 13 Unreleased Songs 2002-2006 (2008)

3. You Must Turn

A piano appeal to any friend who has lost their way, pulled down by gravity and stewing in the acrid juices of their own sloppy, sticky, glue-like negativity.

From the out-of-print, Devendra Banhart-curated various artists compilation The Golden Apples of the Sun (2004)

4. Mary, Don't You Weep/Down on Me

These two traditionals showcase Blakeslee's signature falsetto-vox-and-acoustic-guitar-with-foot-bell-stomp, and sound like they're outtakes from excellent sophomore effort Wandering Stranger (2004). The paranoia of the last part of the medley is classic Entrance.

From 13 Unreleased Songs 2002-2006 (2008)

5. Cocaine Blues

First made available as a free download on Entrance's MySpace page, this tragic and morbidly humourous re-writing of the old traditional tune as a love song could well be another outtake from Wandering Stranger.

From 13 Unreleased Songs 2002-2006 (2008)

6. Right and Wrong

Another demo originally made available on Entrance's MySpace (in 2006 or something), this is a heartbreakingly ambivalent «So long» to either a lover or a dear friend. Why this melodic goodbye—so comforting to those who need a soundtrack to go with the collapse of some relationship—was never released (not even on 13 Unreleased Songs) is a mystery…

7. Woncha Come on Home

Blakeslee never sounded so scared, forlorn and full of lonely longing as on this cover of Joan Armatrading's venting of need and paranoia. Arguably one of Blakeslee's finest performances, it's no coincidence this was one of the first pieces of music to ever be posted onto this blog.

From 13 Unreleased Songs 2002-2006 (2008)

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