Making music is tough. Selling music is even tougher, so when you hear of an artist who pounded the streets to sell his CDs door-to-door, you know you’ve found someone with a passion to share their sounds. Blake Berglund is just such an artist, using the opportunity to talk with people about music while bringing in money to move his career forward. The outcome of this extreme entrepreneurialism is Realms, Berglund’s fifth album.
Describing Realms as “an allegorical concept album about the breadth of human experience, the recognition of God and the awareness of one’s own power”, Berglund delivers alt-country music with a metaphysical twist. As with many an allegorical tale, Berglund takes his protagonist on a journey:
“Independent, hard-working, take-no-shit “Pretty Good Guy” seeks answers and soon finds himself slipping, quitting, succumbing to despair, apathy and numbness. The pain is gripping. And it’s winning. Only when the hero opens the door, steps through and releases control that he connects with God and the cosmic centre, finally understanding the power of God and the power of himself. His message is love. His mission, complex. The hero’s journey is now complete.”
Before you read on, Blake Berglund is giving a FREE download of “Pretty Good Guy”, from this album, to Angry Baby readers. If you’re not already subscribed to Angry Baby, just pop the email address that you’d like it delivered to here and it will be on its way to you straight away, together with a bumper collection of music that has been shared by Angry Baby. The music comes from outstanding artists that you may not have heard before. With a mix of rock, pop, folk…you name it…there’s bound to be something new that floats your musical boat, and all for free! What’s not to like about that?!
Opening with gritty guitar, title track “Realms” sets out Blake’s country stall. There’s no mistaking the steel, but a psychedelic vibe illuminates the final phrases. Influences from Pink Floyd’s “Time” segue into track two, where we’re introduced to “Pretty Good Guy”, who, from the tempo of the tune, enjoys kicking up his heels.
“Moose Mountain” brings all the country imagery you could ever need. From Palomino ponies to life on the trail at sundown, it’s a microcosm of Blake’s cowboy heritage in rural Saskatchewan, Canada. There’s a journey happening here, which takes a slower turn through “Crooked Old Earth”. Referencing harsher truths: “It’s just a trip straight to the grave from the day of our birth, I wouldn’t wish my enemy to this crooked old earth”, we’re carried to a world of insomnia and depression as “Heat Of The Sun” debates the meaning of it all.
If you’ve any doubt that Blake knows a good guitar lick when he plays one, the opening bars of “Men My Age” are here to blow them away. From alcohol to pharmaceuticals and beyond, this ode to mid-life crisis is an exploration of tactics to get through a life unfulfilled, before descending into “The Grip”, which includes some eye-wateringly good guitar-work. Time to raise it up a bit. Berglund rocks out country-style with “Jesus In A Backbeat”, suggesting that redemption may be imminent. But not without the reflection of “Interloper”. The Palomino pony is back, but the journey is different “man upon a horse named dream, very few cross these plains and discover what they seek…” The complexity of the song, which barely allows time to draw breath, is poetic in construction and delivery. Drawing in and mesmerizing, this is an incantation to hang onto, right to the final line.
Our western narrative style enjoys – indeed, almost requires – a resolution to the story, so Blake offers “Realms”, a reprise of the opening track but with greater depth and a sense of homecoming. Adding the bass this time, we’re treated to melodic fullness, warm, satisfying and hopeful for the future.
Realms is an album that needs to be listened to, intently and intentionally, to appreciate the nuances of Blake Berglund’s storytelling. He admits to some pretty impressive influences:
“The crafting of the record was influenced by my favourite authors – C.S. Lewis was a great guide as cosmic Christianity was his jam. I also became fascinated with Joseph Campbell a few years ago and went down that rabbit hole. I’m still down it. I carry his book ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ with me in my tour bag. I try not to be too flamboyant about it, but my life mission is simply to achieve master storytelling and be vulnerable in the process.”
This is, however, much more than a neatly written tale set to music. There’s cleverness in the composition. Yes, it’s country, but there’s so much more resting in the folds of the tunes. Magical moments pop into the ears, enough to recall… something… yet teasing in the fleetingness of their presence.
And we have to mention the backing vocals, too. Delicious harmonies bring the sound of siren-song to their tracks, providing a cushion to rest Blake Berglund’s gravelly lead vocals upon.
While metaphorical, Realms is unashamedly autobiographical, as Blake explains:
“There has always been a tight connection with my artistic idols and their God. Cash, Nelson, Kristofferson, all rooted in a Christian observation but also quite esoteric. The best description of my belief system is spelled out perfectly by Tyler Childers’ new song “Universal Sound” – ‘Realms’ is an album that tells the story of how I got here, spiritually speaking. And told as a Story. I’m a farm kid that grew up boozing and fighting for fun – that’s what we did. That influence in life shapes a guy and that’ll always be with him. Now, I just have a tight relationship with God on top of it all.”
Blake Berglund describes his advice to anyone just starting out with their music as ‘blunt’ but – hey – we might as well hear it straight:
“It’s a game of faith, the sooner you learn to let go and trust that everything will unfold as it is supposed to, the sooner you will find a peace with your path. Make everything about creating art – if you are working on grants for funding, make them an extension of your artistic self. Craft emails artistically. When making cold calls to book shows, use it as an opportunity to work on your people skills. Everything is a lesson. Secondly, redefine success. Success is creating something that you will stand behind after the trends have passed – it’s honouring yourself. You can have all the people in the world stroke you off but at the end of the day you are in this alone and if you can’t be proud of the music you create then you are killing something sacred inside you. Lastly, use the music for a greater message – that’s what connects with people. Country Music sucks today because the industry has rammed this content checklist down young artists throats – fuck those guys – write music about what truly touches you and represents you at your core. You are experiencing life unlike its ever been experienced, your perception of it has never been described before – If your experiences are about morning beers, sitting on a backroad, trucks, text messaging, do us all a favour and quit – you aren’t needed and your goals are selfish – stand for something and make a difference in the world.”
Realms was released on September 1st through Blake’s own Oceanman Records.
Blake may not need to knock on doors to sell his work any more, so – sorry to say – there’s little chance of him appearing on your doorstep, CD in hand. To get your copy, go here and set aside time to put your feet up, listen, and really take in the music and the story.
There are a few U.S. tour dates listen here, and you’ll probably want to like and follow Blake Berglund to keep up with his plans, on:
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