Gilded Blair Dunlop Gilded Wings/Planet
Blair Dunlop’s third album in four years ratifies a rise up the ranks for a pedigreed and prolific young singer-songwriter. Recorded as live with backline support, Gilded nudges the Brit closer to radio-friendly pop territory while retaining folk roots inherited from a father (Ashley Hutchings) who co-founded Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span and the Albion Band. Dunlop’s droll reflections on relationships and modern life, and the agility of his acoustic fingerpicking and electric guitar playing, are reminiscent of Richard Thompson in a sharp commentary on media scaremongering, No Go Zones, and a sardonic break-up song, She Won’t Cry For Me: “It’s the crack in your voice / as you try to ascertain / which parts of you I could never entertain”. Dunlop’s soulful singing is closer in style to Paul Brady, another great folk alumnus — especially in First World Problem, a weighty number that comments on the blandness of modern pop in passing: “There’s a song I heard on the radio / and it sounds just like every song I know / but the words all fall on stony ground / without the roots to hold them down”. In Eternal Optimist, Dunlop disses the narcissistic nature of some mobile users: “Every new tone / that illuminates your phone / all born in haste / feeds the image / on which importance is placed”. In a romantic solo acoustic ballad, Let’s Dance to Paganini, he waxes more poetically: “Then I knew that it was fate / let the violins arpeggiate”.