— Come join us to celebrate the reissue of Tia Blake’s classic record Folksongs and Ballads (1971). The Tia Blake Collection is part of the Southern Folklife Collection. Transfers from the original master tapes were conducted in the SFC studios. —
In the early spring of 2011, SFC curator Steve Weiss asked me to create an inventory of a small collection he had recently accessioned. Water Music, a record label based in California, was planning a reissue of Folksongs and Ballads by Tia Blake and her Folk Group. The producer was searching for photographs and other media to include as part of the release. The box of materials included few photographs, some open reel tapes, a flier for the group’s single performance (see below), some business correspondence, a copy of her LP, released in 1971 by the tiny French label SFP (Societe Francaise de Productions Phonographiques).
After some initial research, Tia Blake remained a mystery to me. She recorded just the one album in 1970 as a teenager living in France, had one performance (above photo), and left France never to perform publicly again. Blissfully unaware the the album I held is considered a lost gem of psych folk music–a rare collaboration between a young American woman living in France and European musicians enamored with American traditional music–and highly sought after by collectors, I was struck by Tia Blake’s warm, deep and and powerful vocals. The arrangements are sparse and very skillfully arranged, accentuating the intimate sadness of Blake’s voice. Made up entirely of traditional tunes in the public domain, the album feels familiar but the casual grace of Blake’s vocals and the acoustic accompaniment make for a remarkable and lovely listening experience.
Along with a copy of the album were two open reel tapes: one including outtakes and rehearsal demos from the initial recording session, and another with three tracks performed by Tia Blake solo and recorded at a CBC studio in Montreal in 1976. All of these tracks are included on the CD reissue. A composition about her father (with whom she lived in the Amazon in 1975) remains one of our favorites.
Ms. Blake became a writer and eventually settled in North Carolina. The Southern Folklife Collection is honored to be the repository for the Tia Blake Collection and very pleased to have contributed to reintroduce her music to the world. Please join us on Saturday, June 23 at All Day Records in Carrboro to celebrate the release of the album.
Two important things you should know about this event:
1. The reissue is CD-only at this time, there will be CDs for sale
2. Tia Blake will be present, but will not be performing