Album Review: The Corridor – Youri Blow
Wild House Blues Records
By Guy Sangster Adams
Water is key to Youri Blow’s highly atmospheric second album. En route from its source in Dijon to Le Havre where it meets the English Channel/La Manche, the river Seine flows through Troyes in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France, where Blow was born. Now his home is the port of Brest, which lies in the Finistère département in the extreme west of Brittany, amidst the dramatic landscape of the Rade de Brest, into which five rivers flow and which opens onto the Atlantic Ocean, the waves of which crash spectacularly along Finistère’s wild and rocky coastline. Whilst on the other side of the Atlantic, the area between the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers, The Mississippi Delta, and the Delta Blues that originated there, were a formative influence on Blow.
Though this influence is very apparent on the rasping vocals and rougher edged sound of the tracks Muddy Streams and Strange History, the album is a confluence of influences informed by Blow’s travels, gathered under a genre tag of Psyché Blues. The beautiful Ever Love, with backing vocals by Lucie T., fittingly as it is the album opener and therefore stepping off point for the journey, is rooted in his current home. It has a Celtic heart, Brittany being one of the six Celtic nations, and softer melodies and vocal styling more reminiscent of Nick Drake and John Martyn. Whilst Autour du Templier, titularly at least, pays reference to the Order of the Knights Templer that was officially recognised in Blow’s birthplace at the Council of Troyes in the 12th century.
But over and above this The Corridor is also inspired by Blow’s expedition to far further and more isolated shores, namely the phenomenal land- and waterscapes of Lake Khövsgöl in the north west of Mongolia. He spent two months in Mongolia, travelling with a back pack and a guitar, a large part of which was spent living in a tipi by the lake with members of the Shamanistic Tsaatan reindeer herdsmen, whose social and material culture has remained unchanged since the Ice Age. Understandably his time in Mongolia had a profound effect on Blow, specifically inspiring three tracks on the album, Khovsgol Lake, Tsagaan Sar (which is the Mongolian lunisolar New Year festival), and Ulan Taïga (a mountain range in Khövsgöl).
Blow’s talent is to meld all the power and diversity of all these dynamic and elemental horizons into an album that works wonderfully well holistically. A multi-instrumentalist, throughout The Corridor he plays a variety of guitars, acoustic, Dobro, and electric Fender Stratocaster, whilst also mixing in violin, and instruments from his travels such as a Mongolian fiddle, Peruvian flute, and Vietnamese jaw harp, to which he also adds overtone singing, a polyphonic style traditional in Mongolia.
The Corridor is an highly enjoyable sonic travelogue, through vistas both real and imaginary, an evocation of the broadest horizons, and as the closing track, L’Eveil de la goutte d’eau, recognises, if you let it, the rhythm of rain drops can transport you wherever a river of imagination may take you.