Christiana Elizabeth Wallman, also known by her stage name, Tia Blake, was an American singer/songwriter, and later a freelance writer. Wallman passed away in 2015 at the age of 63, but has had an EP of demos recorded from 1973 to 1976 and a piece for a literary magazine in the UK published posthumously. The album that I’ll be listening to tonight, Folksongs & Ballads (1971), is an album comprised of public domain folk songs that was recorded by Wallman in Paris, France, accompanied by a group of European musicians playing traditional folk music of varying origin on guitars, a dobro, and a flute (RecordCollectorMag.com). I’m pretty stoked to give this a listen, as there seems to be a bit of mystique surrounding the album, especially because Wallman very rarely recorded anything after leaving Europe. With that said, I’m going to jump on into the listening experience.
“Betty and Dupree” starts with some really sweet folk guitar that has a tone reminiscent of The Weavers or other American folk artists from the early 1960s. Oh wow, the dobro brings some super sweet country-inflected flavors to the soundscape. Oh wow, I really dig Blake’s vocals in this track, which almost remind me of some combination of a sort of laid-back, self-assuredness of Tess Parks and some melancholic tone reminiscent of Nick Drake. The folksy guitar lines in this track keep me listening closer and closer. Super sweet track, and I’m excited to hear more.
Oh wow, “Black Is the Colour” starts out with some sweet guitar that has a bit of a Spanish sort of feel. Oh wow, the vocal melody has a sort of melancholic tone and a sort of vaguely Scottish folk feel. I really dig the guitar work in this one. Super sweet tune.
“Wish I Was a Single Girl Again” begins with some super light acoustic folk guitar that is soon joined by a second guitar playing a bright line that seems to accentuate the other guitar nicely. I really dig the simplicity of the soundscape between the two gentle guitars and Blake’s somewhat sullen, and super sweet vocals. I’m kind of reminded of the Molly Drake album I listened to a while back. Super sweet track.
Oh wow, “I’m a Man of Constant Sorrow” starts out with a super sweet medley of guitars that feels like a vague mixture of American folk guitar, British folk guitar, and even some Spanish guitar. Oh wow, the dobro in this song seems to move the song’s provenance across to the Americas as the song nearly picks up a folksy bluegrass sort of sound. I really dig Blake’s vocals in this one. Great tune.
“Jane, jane” gets started with an interesting medley of acoustic guitars that has a really interesting folksy style that sort of feels vaguely bluegrass and vaguely Scottish folk, and reminds me a fair deal of the Richard Thompson album that I listened to a while ago, Strict Tempo! (1981). Oh wow, Blake’s vocals seem to get increasingly sweet as the song continues, bringing in a sort of soft, breathy, folksy feel that reminds me a bit of the Bedouine album that I listened to a while back, Bedouine (Deluxe) (2017). Wow, great track.
Holy smokes, “Lost Jimmie Whalen” starts out with a sort of rambling, bluesy, folksy feel in the guitars that is soon joined by a mysterious flute that gives the song a distinctly British/Scottish traditional folk feel, which is soon made more apparent when Blake’s vocals come in with what sounds to be a traditional Scottish folk vocal melody. I’m really digging this song. Great track.
“The Rising of the Moon” gets started with a lonesome, somewhat bluesy guitar chord, which is soon followed by some sweet vocals from Blake that remind me a lot of the earlier folk stylings of American folk songs, such as “Brother Can You Spare a Dime”. Oh wow, the song seems to gradually pick up more western European elements as the track continues in both the vocals and guitar work. Oh wow, I really dig the harmonics in the guitar as the song seems to dramatically nearly come to a pause before continuing again. Oh wow, the final vocal line has a ton of great feel and weight to the delivery. Great song.
“Hangman” begins with some super sweet arpeggios from an acoustic guitar that sets a tone of constant movement. Holy smokes, a male vocalist comes in and harmonizes with Blake, providing some earthiness and even more weight to the vocals in this song, which produces a really pleasant contrast with the light, constant movement in the acoustic guitar work. Oh wow, Blake is singing alone again, and her delivery seems to hit some lower notes and brings an interesting melancholy to the lightness of the instrumentation. Great track.
“Turtle dove” starts out with some gentle guitar work, and is soon joined by a really nice, gentle vocal line from Blake that hits some really sweet high notes. The overall feel of the song feels British or Scottish in terms of traditional folk sound, but it also sounds like it vaguely influenced an American folk song that I can’t quite place at the moment but can sort of hear in my head. Oh wow, there’s some really sweet flute in this one too. Great track.
Oh wow, “Plastic Jesus” starts out with a medley of dobro and acoustic guitars that brings a certain American country and folk sound that I’m really digging. Holy smokes, I really dig Blake’s vocals in this track, which have a sort of soft, upbeat folksy feel to them in this one that reminds me a bit of the American folk revival days of the early 1960s as well as the sort of country and folk style of Judee Sill. Great track.
“Polly Vaughn” gets started right away with some sort of bluesy and super interesting meandering folk guitar that reminds me a lot of “The House of the Rising Sun”. Oh wow, a male vocalist comes in to harmonize with Blake and another vocalist comes in with some hums/background singing for a moment as the vocal melody takes a sort of British/Scottish folk turn. Oh wow, I really dig the guitar work in this track, which produce a really interesting feeling of constant movement as the vocals gradually continue on. Holy smokes, the outro of the guitars has somehow pulled me even closer to my speakers as the album comes to an end. Great track, and a great way to finish the album.
Holy smokes, this album is super sweet. Blake sings with a certain laid back approach that has an interesting combination of softness and at times melancholy that reminds me a bit of Molly Drake, while approaching on a serious tone reminiscent of Tess Parks, and even touching on the sort of country folksy tones of Judee Sill. I’m also reminded a bit of Pete Seeger in her overall folksy approach the more I think of it. The instrumentation and vocals really complemented one another nicely well as the songs seemed to traverse the eastern United States and western Europe. If you’re into soft and sweet folk music of varying origin, then you might want to consider checking out this album. If you do decide to give this album a listen, I sincerely do hope that you enjoy the listening experience at least as much as I did.