After visiting a writers’ round at Hotel Indigo last week, I was left with one burning question: why isn’t Blake Aaron Mundell already a part of the popular music scene? He’s a skillful guitarist, has a voice that calls to mind a little James Taylor, and his earnest and clever lyrics made me really think…and feel. To complete this already too-good-to-be-true musical package, he’s just about the nicest guy you could ever hope to meet.
During conversation, in which Blake participated with his whole heart and attention, I learned that he is actually a native of Colorado, but he came to Nashville to study songwriting at Belmont University. He told me he’s working on his third studio album, so I ran right out to listen to his first two. I liked Red Queen World so much I bought it immediately, and it’s experienced quite a bit of play in my iTunes since. On the album, he shows an entirely new facet of his musicianship. This guy sees the whole picture. His faith is readily apparent in many of the tunes, but in others, you must listen to the current underneath for the whole message. It is this unabashed devotion that draws the listener in, whether the feelings are shared or not. If there’s a story in his acoustic sets, there’s a novel in his studio work. And really, who can’t fall in love with an album that opens with an Alice in Wonderland reference?
C’mon Catch Me takes less than two solid measures to prove the worth of the LP. The church choir chords lead at once into synthesized instrumentals, and then are echoed by Blake’s own vocals. When the beat picks up, you’ll tap your foot along with it. Again, the lyrics are the shining star of the song, but there is no way to ignore the musicianship. The same can be said of Brushstroke, which opens with quiet guitar reminiscent of Landslide of Fleetwood Mac fame. In this offering, we hear the lower register of Blake’s voice, which is warm and full, while also soft and plaintive. In Valley of Bones, we get even more of Blake’s signature poetry, but it is his falsetto that steals the show here. Just when you think you’ve heard all of his vocal ability, he surprises once more.
While every song on the album has merit, my favorite was Last Name, which I had the privilege of hearing live. There is a very personal feel to the song, both musically and lyrically. The number opens with just guitar and Blake, and he sounds like he could be sitting in your living room leading a sing-along. The simplicity of the music gives specific emphasis to the lyrics, and as always, Blake has a message for us all: strip away the finery and power, and you’ll see we’re all the same. Plus, he can whistle. To a girl who can’t, that’s pretty impressive.
To hear Blake Aaron Mundell for yourself, you can check out Red Queen World on iTunes, Amazon, or on his website. If you’re not busy June 30 at 7:30, you can see him live at Hotel Indigo on West End in Nashville, where he will perform with Sarah Kirkland and Jared Mitchell of Yours Truly.
Photo: MD Laidlaw at www.mdlaidlaw.com