Blake Thomas
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Blake Thomas


Band Country Singer/Songwriter


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"Blake Thomas at The King Club"

"Somber, weary, honky-tonk folk-rock that should suit lonely drinkers as well as anyone itchin' for an old-timey bar brawl." - The Onion

"Best Albums Of 2006"

#1. Blake Thomas "40 Minutes" - Rick's Cafe

"Blake & Josh at The Black Rose"

Blake Thomas is the next Townes Van Zandt and I'll stand on Steve Earle's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that. - Kiki's Magical Music Reviews


2005: "Real Like Theater"
2006: "40 Minutes"



Buying their first Bob Dylan record has changed many a musician’s life, but in Blake Thomas’s case, that first record was kind of a mistake, albeit the good kind. Up until that point, he had been listening to electric blues, Eric Clapton and the like. He picked up a copy of Highway 61 Revisited when he found out that guitarist Michael Bloomfield, best known for his work with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, had played on it. Blake was 16 at the time, and things just haven’t been the same since. Being called the next Bob Dylan has historically been more a curse than a blessing for a musician, yet that is exactly what Blake set out to be.

One wouldn’t have predicted that would be the course he would ultimately take based on his childhood, which found him to be a slightly showier performer. As a third grader in Chaska, MN (near the Twin Cities), he would slick his hair back in the bathroom and perform Elvis songs for the class, “because who doesn’t like Elvis?” he grins. He started playing saxophone about that time, but it wasn’t until the eighth grade that he delved into rock and roll, playing bass in a Rage Against the Machine cover band. They knew only three songs, but that was enough to score them a gig playing for their schoolmates during an assembly. Graduating from high school a semester early, he attended a semester of college paid for by the state. “It was better than high school,” he says, but it still wasn’t where he wanted to be.

The next couple years found him rootless, moving from city to city, working odd jobs, playing coffeehouses or busking, and spending time in Chicago, Milwaukee, Duluth, Boston, Minneapolis, and Milwaukee again before finally ending up in Madison, WI. While he had been recording occasionally with friends during those rambling years (material that may someday be his own Bootleg Series), he didn’t seem to get serious about releasing an actual CD until settling down in Madison.

Recorded with backing band the Downtown Brown and released in 2005, his first record Real Like Theater is an absolute revelation. Drawing comparisons to David Gray if he “had been raised somewhere in rural America listening to Johnny Cash and The Band” in a glowing review from regional music paper Rick’s Café, the record earned him Best Folk/Americana/Bluegrass Artist and Album at the 2006 Madison Area Music Awards (MAMAs). He put those trophies on the figurative mantle next to the Best Male Vocalist MAMA he had won the year before. As stellar as the band and guest performances are on Theater, it’s Blake’s shiver-inducing vocals and stunning guitar work that make it so remarkable.

Though a sophomore slump would seem inevitable, 40 Minutes, released at the end of 2006, actually manages to better Theater. Somewhat less showy, it’s an ultimately more rewarding effort, as repeated listens reveal the power of his smart, insightful, too often heartbreaking lyrics. This time Rick’s Café gave him a deserved Dylan comparison, claiming, “He’s in full Nashville Skyline mode here, tossing off lines like ‘My head is a house I’d be ashamed to take you home to’ (“Head is a House”) and ‘She staggers up stairwells in sun-soaked clothes’ (slow-burner “Kaitlyn”) like afterthoughts.”

Even though Madison music lovers had certainly fallen hard for Blake’s music, he felt the need to move on, leaving for live-music capital Austin, TX, shortly after the release of 40 Minutes. But, like college, it just wasn’t where he wanted to be, and he was on the road again after a few months. These travels have colored the songs that will make up the next record: “Flatlands” recalls the desolation, and isolation, of driving across Nebraska, while “How Long” catalogs the trip to Texas.

So does he still want to be the next Bob Dylan? Not exactly, even though he claims Dylan’s last three records have resonated with him more than any of his earlier recordings. Nope, these days he feels more of a connection with the songs of Townes Van Zandt, an artist whose music he claims is “more personal and takes more risks” than Dylan’s. Listening to Blake’s new songs—the heartstoppingly gorgeous “You’ve Got Me Feeling Like the Moon” or the delightfully rambling “Up in Flames”—I think it’s safe to say he’s getting closer to that goal with every song he writes.