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October 10, 2006

Sight Unsound - James Blunt: not your average ladies’ man

Girls love him, guys want to punch him: but James Blunt stresses he only has two romantic songs on Back To Bedlam, so sod off.If you happen to have ears, you have probably encountered British songwriter James Blunt and his ubiquitous first single, “You’re Beautiful,” at some point over the course of the last year. And if you are of the female persuasion, you might be among the legion of fans there because of that particular song. Blunt acknowledges that this affection is not such a bad problem to have, but just the same it is still something of a sore subject with the youthful crooner. “I’ve become a certain stereotype to the public,” he said in an interview with LEO. “And it’s silly really. Yeah, I was on Oprah — which was great — but I’m not this peaceful romantic that I’m made out to be by people who’ve only heard that song. Just like anybody else, my personality is flexible. I am what I have to be in any given situation … and there are only two songs on my album that even come close to being romantic in nature. So go figure.” Besides dodging all that, Blunt has recently been on the run winning over audiences worldwide with all the material from his breakout album, Back To Bedlam. But Blunt is no stranger to the nomadic lifestyle imposed on him of late. In fact, his music has always been directly and indirectly impacted by the compulsory traveling of his formative years. “I moved around a lot when I was young,” he said. “My family wasn’t musical but my dad was in the military, which was great because wherever he was stationed I would get to absorb a bit of the local culture. And people at whichever school I was attending would give me records to check out. Mainly it was English acts like the Stones, Zeppelin and Bowie that everyone was listening to, and that stuff probably influenced me the most when I started playing music myself as a teenager.” Eventually, in keeping with family tradition, Blunt did a stint of his own in the Army, but he sensed all along that music was his most liberating career option. Interestingly enough, even as a soldier he continued to develop his technique, famously taking his guitar along to Kosovo. These days, thanks to his newfound popularity and honorable discharge, Blunt is no longer required to take orders from anyone. As such, he actually has to enforce a fair amount of discipline upon himself. “Even though I’ve been at it since about the age of 14,” he said. “I’m the sort of person who has to make time to write and to practice. Songs don’t just drop into my mind when I’m out in a bar or something. But just the same, it doesn’t really feel like work to me either. I certainly can’t complain. But I do have to devote some time to the process.” Folks who actually get around to listening to Blunt’s entire debut record can understand the singer’s frustration with the public’s perception of him (even if they have little sympathy for his female-fan affliction). Bedlam’s production was tastefully overseen by Tom Rothrock (best known for his work with the late Elliott Smith) and the well-crafted songs on this disc offer a glimpse into the psyche of an artist who is remarkably smart and engaging. So, if you wanna see what all the fuss over Blunt is about, head to the Palace Theatre — 625 S. Fourth St., 583-4555 — this Tuesday night, Oct. 17. Tickets are $41.50 and $51.50, and fellow Brits Starsailor open the all-ages show, which begins at 8 p.m. Your ears will thank you. By now, word has spread around here about the evacuations and the mud from the rain-dump a couple weekends ago. And even though there were no major incidents or injuries, the friendly folks of Terrapin Hill Farm are trying to rebuild and recover from weather-related damage during this year’s harvest festival. To aid their cause, the Bluegrass Brewing Company — 3929 Shelbyville Road, 899-7070 — has been chosen as the site of a silent auction and benefit concert this Sunday, Oct. 15. Come by early afternoon, eat some lunch and kick back for 10 live bands, including Paradigm, David Gans (host of the “Grateful Dead Hour”), Bloom Street, Merry Pranksters and Stonewheel, among others. Soul virtuoso Howard Tate took a 30+ year sabbatical from the music industry before returning in 2003. There was a lot of buzz around his return, and since then he has managed to keep the momentum going. He will perform songs from his recently released album, Portrait of Howard, during a rare appearance at ear X-tacy — 1534 Bardstown Road, 452-1799 — this Friday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. One of our favorite local bands has a new name and a new record. The former Instant Camera will play their inaugural show as Foreign Oranges this Saturday at Uncle Pleasant’s, 2126 S. Preston St., 634-4147. These guys are cool in a Cure sorta way, but with less affect and more effect, and are definitely worth checking out. Unfortunately the new recording, which is sure to surprise classic Camera fans, won’t quite be available by show time. Doors open at 10 p.m., it’s $5, and Crush Kill Destroy from Chicago fills out the bill. The power of the ukulele should never be underestimated. At least that’s what British eccentrics Gomez would have us believe. They apparently keep an ample supply of ukes on their tour bus just in case a need arises. George Harrison would be proud. These darlings of the music press will bring their massively successful international tour (not to mention their tour bus full of ukes) to Headliners — 1386 Lexington Road, 584-8088 — for an intimate show on Thursday, Oct. 12. Doors at 9 p.m.; tickets $15 and $17. Opening the show is Matt Pond PA, a fully realized, more mature kind of emo band that’s considerably darker than the now-standard chamber pop stuff you’re hearing these days (if you know what we’re talking about). Both good bands, yes. Send suggestions and correspondence for “Sight Unsound,” a new weekly feature from the LEO Music Desk, to music editor Stephen George at sgeorge@leoweekly.com