Artist: Doug Hream Blunt
Album: My Name Is Doug Hream Blunt
Genre: Funk / Soul / R’n’B
Label: Luaka Bop
Quality: FLAC (tracks)
Ride the Tiger
Fly Guy (Instrumental)
Discoveries are, necessarily, becoming harder to find. Every secondhand record shop has been picked over; every obscurity has been sampled, located and propelled to niche renown – occasionally unwillingly. Nigerian funk synthesist William Onyeabor, for one, has no interest in the extraordinary records he made in the 70s; he just cares about Jesus. Last year, a producer called Lewis, unknowingly elevated to cult status for his 80s synth recordings, was found in Canada. He wasn’t especially bothered.
Blunt has something of the high-functioning outsider artist about him, one who mobilised the resources at his disposal
Doug Hream Blunt is now in his 60s. In the past few years he has recovered from a stroke and – judging by the promo materials made available by Luaka Bop, which has compiled his slim works for rerelease – seems pleased to be appreciated. In the late 80s he self-released (and self-distributed to local San Francisco record stores) one album and a subsequent EP of nagging, synthetic jams, inflected with 60s rhythms, wheezing vibes, a little funk and the kind of frazzled, insalubrious charm that now plays very well. Ariel Pink, the prolific LA songster known for his own fried, thigh-rubbing songs, is one of Blunt’s lionisers. He invited him on stage last spring to perform a version of Blunt’s best-known song, Gentle Persuasion (previously, Blunt had played for the patients at the hospital where he worked as a nurse’s aid). Blunt’s legend has snowballed slowly. In 2010, Hype Williams – the uncategorisable, defunct London duo of Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland – took Gentle Persuasion and slowed it down; the younger Blunt apparently took his name in tribute to the older guitarist. In 2011, a blog post on the Stranger, Seattle’s venerable free paper site, caught the bug; shortly afterwards, a New Zealand music blogger interviewed the bemused Blunt.
Genre was never a concern of the idiosyncratic funkateer. On this earwormy compilation you can hear that he has a voice naturally suited to soul, but his rhythms are insistent and regular, while his solos are free and wild. He’s a Fly Guy; he wants to “fall into a groove/And then move”, an accurate description of the modus operandi of these catchy, bleary tunes.The taut yearning of a song like his Whiskey Man, by contrast, could have come from the Nuggets garage-psych compilation. Like so many of Blunt’s songs it’s disarmingly cheery, with bleaker undertones.
Blunt’s hanging out on corners drinking – “I got to be mellow,” he explains, nervously eyeing the hills. The wiggy solo tilts at the spirit, if not quite the instrumentation, of Jimi Hendrix. The insidious Trek finds him “burning spoons” and “rocking a doob”, but the keyboards sound like triumphant brass. The nimble guitar intro to Caribbean Queen sounds like some steel pans being played through an extra-safe condom.
The song that has turned most people on to Blunt, Gentle Persuasion mobilises a repeating, icy 80s synth figure in a seduction attempt (“do the 99!”) that sounds either good-natured or creepy, depending on your point of view.
Like the ducking and diving recent maverick Willis Earl Beal, Blunt has something of the high-functioning outsider artist about him, one who mobilised the resources at his disposal. In 1985 he convened a band from his evening music class – a motley crew magnificently immortalised in 1990 on the local public access TV broadcast of the time. It’s required viewing for anyone interested in the art of the possible.