Jake Blount's incendiary album Spider Tales hit right in the middle of a global pandemic in 2020, during a period of massive unrest. Drawn from the lost Black and Indigenous histories of Appalachian roots music, Blount's timely vision showcased not only these lost voices, but the rage and anger that was encoded into the music early on and has remained ever since. It was, simply put, one of the most powerful explorations of American roots music in 2020, chosen as one of the Best Albums of 2020 by The New Yorker, NPR, Bandcamp, WNYC's The Takeaway, Folk Alley, Country Queer, Out Smart, The Vinyl District, PopMatters, Songlines, and more. Blount also received the Steve Martin Banjo Prize in 2020 in recognition in part of the power of his album! The music of Spider Tales is haunted, full of “crooked” instrumental tunes, modal keys, stark songs, and confounding melodic structures. Jake Blount spins effortlessly through this music, playing his instruments with a focus on subtlety and on relaying meaning even in the melodies that have no words.
To make the album, Blount assembled a band of mostly queer artists, including himself, digging deep into the roots of the music, pushing all the way back to Africa; the album’s title, Spider Tales, is a nod to the great trickster of Akan mythology, Anansi. “The Anansi stories were tales that celebrated unseating the oppressor,” Blount says, “and finding ways to undermine those in power even if you’re not in a position to initiate a direct conflict.” Blount is also drawing out the coded pain and anger in the songs to give voice to those who were shunned from America's musical canon. “There’s a long history of expressions of pain in the African-American tradition,” Blount says. “Often those things couldn’t be stated outright. If you said the wrong thing to the wrong person back then you could die from it, but the anger and the desire for justice are still there. They’re just hidden. The songs deal with intense emotion but couch it in a love song or in religious imagery so that it wasn’t something you could be called out about. These ideas survived because people in power weren’t perceiving the messages, but they’re there if you know where to look.” Blount is determined to show that this music didn't form in a vacuum, but in the face of ruinous hardship.
"There could have been no better year for Spider Tales -- Jake Blount's exquisite exploration of Black and Indigenous Appalachia — than 2020, when everything seemed to go wrong and we were all sent home by the power of nature to think about what we've done."
-NPR Best Albums of 2020
"he mines a deep, underexplored vein of Black and indigenous roots music, presenting new, often haunted versions of field hollers, murder ballads, and more. Maybe start with the familiar “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” but don’t stop there."
-The New Yorker
"Blount enriches the canon by re-centering the contributions of those who were marginalized from history. We are all elevated for his efforts."
"Spider Tales is an achievement. Each track drips with history and transports to eras and locales that are seemingly otherwise only in folklore or dark fairy tales."
— American Songwriter