Image © 2000
(01 October 2000) Karen Nunis Blackstone is a true and fresh
voice of the global village and a songwriter of deep emotion. When we
first acquired her debut album Give Me Sanity (Songbird LLC (Japan)
01-2000, 2000), we didn't know quite what to make of it, but with repeated
listenings it has grown on Musical Discoveries editors. The artist was
born in Malacca, in the former British colony of Malaysia, and is of
Portuguese, Ceylonese and Chinese descent. She is currently based in
Akita, Japan and is an acclaimed visual artist and emerging singer
Living the blues as a child profoundly affected Karen's
unique multi-cultural folk music; being a member of a very small miniority
group (Malaccan Portuguese) caused her to be ignored by the Malaysian music
industry establishment even as critics were hailing her very big voice.
Being neither Malay nor Chinese, her vocal talent could not find industry
acceptance in Lamalysia until she relocated to Japan with her husband,
an American university lecturer and blues harp player. After honing
her vocal chops singing jazz and blues on the Nihon circuit, Karen's
original sound found a welcome audience at a Buddhist temple run by a
former Los Angeles punk vocalist and expanded to concert halls, smoky
clubs, concert halls and festivals all over Japan.
Blackstone's emotive lyrics, ear catching melodies and
unique rhythms combine the best of blues, jazz and rural folk sensibilites.
She was supported by guest artists that include some of Southeast Asia's
top music talents and any music club pals who were glad to lend a hand
during the recording process. The diverse mix of cultural influences
and contemporary attitudes contributes to the listening experience.
In addition to jazz and blues, we clearly heard bluegrass in the final
mix as well.
We most enjoyed the album's premier rocker "Drivin Down The Bern."
Electric guitar, harmonica and percussion during the instrumental bridge seem
to perfectly compliment the artist's singing style in the sectons of the song
that surround it. The gentle ballad "It's A Wonder" demonstrated the artist's
vocal sensuality; the instrumental arrangements are especially complimentary.
The folky flute part in "Angel Of Darkness" is highly notable contrasting
the lead vocal part perfectly. The jazzy tune "Fend For Yourself" concludes
the album with vocals effectively accompanied by various arrangements including
another lovely flute part.
As one would expect from a Japanese release, the booklet accompanying the
well produced compact disc is lovely with complete lyrics and a couple of
nice photos of the artist. You can order Karen's album Give Me Sanity
read editorial reviews and hear soundbites of every track at amazon.com
here. Worth further exploration with soundbites available online for
your personal listening experience, we found the album to be a nice