Last of the Blacksmiths

Last of the Blacksmiths

BandAlternativeFolk

Our band is called Last of the Blacksmiths, and was formed in the fall of 2003. The music we play is primarily a blend of indie rock and a wide range of Americana influence from old-time country/folk to R&B. We're currently plan on releasing a second album in early 2007.

Biography

Label Bio: taken from
http://www.vanguardsquad.com/comrades/lotb.php

San Francisco-based Last of the Blacksmiths formed in 2003 and self-released their first album in 2005. The eponymous 12-song CD (engineered by Bert and Nigel) is filled with beautifully penned and masterfully arranged original works. The band plays in the San Francisco area and tours regularly.

Nathan and Nigel grew up in California’s Central Valley. It’s a region that was once rich in agriculture, but following an influx of urban families seeking respite from the high cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area, soon became a paradise/wasteland for commuter parents and latchkey kids. (The Central Valley is a central theme throughout the band’s album.) Jake grew up in California’s capitol, Sacramento, and after earning his degree in Marine Biology, spent time in San Diego, Mexico, and Lake Tahoe before finally settling in San Francisco. Bert, a native of El Paso, Texas, enjoys bicycles and books as well as drums.

There are so many wonderful things that can be said about the Blacksmiths’ music, but for me, the most interesting is their contribution to oral tradition. The album documents the lives of these four gentlemen. It’s folk music, both traditionally and categorically: the Blacksmiths play all the instruments one would associate with folk music (banjo, mandolin, etc.) and their songs are traditional in that they serve people. The Blacksmiths not only tell stories of their own time and culture, but they preserve stories of their forefathers--quite literally. Three of the songs on their album were written as poems in the late ’60s by Rufus Wanta, grandfather of Blacksmith Nathan Wanta. The poems sat collecting dust for the last thirty years, but the band not only made them part of living history, but asked Rufus to play harmonica on the album, too. The fact that Rufus’ songs don’t seem “old” next to the ’Blacksmith originals is a testament to their endurance, but also to the importance of passing down stories from one generation to the next. Or, as Rufus wrote, “Knowing me will take much longer than one life.”

It must be rare in this day and age that a grandfather and his grandson (not to mention his grandson’s friends) can see eye-to-eye on music. Generations make it a point to diverge from their predecessors; in this respect, the Blacksmiths are no exception. The band members all cut their individual musical teeth within the punk idiom. Nathan, Bert, and Nigel were in various distorted guitar-driven bands before forming the Blacksmiths. Likewise, Jake started plucking on his father’s dusty bass in the family basement, teaching himself how to play Rage Against the Machine tunes. For as different as they sound, the fundamental tenets of punk and folk aren’t that dissimilar.

Folk music was born as a way of story telling: handing down tales by word of mouth from the elder to the young. Music was a form of communication in rural societies. In the early 1900s, the music transformed from communication to art, from process to performance, and the music became the dispatch for a general class of people, the laborers, rail-riders, cowboys, ranchers...the lower class. In fact, musicologists say the term “folk music” was an invention of the bourgeois. The music was the voice of the people in Appalachia, the Delta, the Dust Bowl, and the Great Plains, and the songs were the accounts of daily life. The topics reflected the people, labor, the union, family, fascism, communism, and the embrace of (or resistance to) the American dream. The ’60s birthed the new breed of folkies that most people now are familiar with, the "protest singer." There is much debate on folk music and how to define it--a task further complicated by the myriad sub-genres: traditional folk, electric folk, alt country, rural, No Depression, Americana, old timey, indie folk, etc. There is a similar confusion about punk rock. For lack of what it is, we can be clear that punk is not a participant in mainstream culture. This is where the paradigm of folk and punk intersect: to carry your experience to others without an outside influence. It is with this in mind that I consider Last of the Blacksmiths to be the ideal punk rock band and the ideal folk band: completely self-reliant.

Anyone who has studied folk music knows that it thrives best in societies not yet affected by mass communication and the commercialization of culture. That’s fantastic for those who live in the proverbial backwoods. But what about the millions of us who live in cities and towns and--God forbid--suburbs? Is it not our job to preserve this culture, however hideous it may seem? Last of the Blacksmiths do just that. Their songs address the events that shape their lives: living in tract homes; working on a tomato farm; rearing children; spending in excess. It’s noble to practice tradition, but the real challenge lies in preserving that tradition in the face of cultural “advancements.” Wh

Discography

Last of the Blacksmiths, self-titled LP

And Then Some, 7" single

Set List

We play our own songs, mostly. A typical set may be 6-12 songs, depending show order, and may include include these songs:

1. What You've Been Sayin'
2. Beard Tongues
3. At an Early Hour
4. And then Some
5. High Peaks
6. Grass Blade
7. Pick a Song
8. Giving Up
9. The Records
10. Knowing Me
11. Columbus Stockade Blues
12. Tree Song