Coughlans Live Music Festival '22 presents John Blek and guest Sarah Hickey.
Blek is an artist with a story to tell. With his timeless emotive voice and layered fingerstyle guitar you will be transported from scene to scene as his expansive songbook unfolds.
John Blek is Cork City born and bred currently residing only a mile or two from his childhood home but listening to his music you can hear the influence of travel and experience. His parents, both of whom were primary school teachers, had to bribe him to stay in school after his 16th birthday with the promise of a new guitar on the completion of his final exams. Such was John’s belief in his ability and chosen path in life that he was willing to forgo the more traditional education sought by his peers. This conviction carries through to his art. His music is written from such a personal place that it creates the sense that he grew up with these songs, that they are in his blood – and in a way he did, they are his thoughts, his words, his sounds and his stories. Though not all autobiographical, like many of the great painters, an element of the artist exists in every portrait.
It all began for him in the passenger seat of his father Hiace van. Parked in the driveway running the battery down listening to cassettes from Jim Croce, Willy Nelson and The Beatles. These formative musical experiences unknowingly laid the foundation for John’s self lead musical education. Later the discovery of Bert Jansch, Bob Dylan, Nick Jones and Neil Young added more fuel to his fire. He began writing his own music at 15 for no other reason than that he found it frustrating and false trying to learn and imitate other musicians' work. That was the start of his pursuit of his own unique voice.
Blek has a love of music in the real sense, he creates to create. Although only 34 he has a catalogue of music that would represent a life’s work for many musicians. Blek is a career musician, and has dedicated his working life to developing his music. He began his solo career in 2014, and over the last six years has created a reputation as a singer songwriter who is sure to leave a legacy of timeless music that will speak to generations. He has released 6 albums to date [Digressions #2 Grounded (2021), The Embers (2020), Thistle & Thorn (2019), Catharsis Vol.1 (2017), Cut the Light (2016), and Cutting Room Floor (2014)]. He speaks about his craft as passionately as he performs and has a dedicated fan base, meaning he has a well-worn path returning to play venues across Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark and the UK as well playing to sold out venues in Ireland like Triskel Arts Centre, Whelan’s and The Black Gate Cultural Centre.
Blek has toured extensively and carries those travels with him in the music he writes. He takes you on his journey, more often than not on the road less travelled. He achieves what Cesar A Cruz said art should, ‘comfort the disturbed, and disturb the comfortable’. John Blek is enthralled by folk art. The stories, the sense of place and humanity. You see, at his heart he is a storyteller, influenced by experience and the natural world around him, with tones of compassion and sometimes sorrow, with a voice that sounds purposefully introspective and intimate – a voice that compels you to listen. With often haunting layers of music and lyrics he creates an incredibly atmospheric and inspirational arrangement that lingers with you long after you hear it.
While Blek is a solo artist he regularly collaborates, and indeed will write new music with collaborators in mind. As a result, it never feels like another artist is merely gate crashing his music instead it works as a beautiful harmonious meeting of artists who understand each other. Recent collaborations include Kris Drever & Kit Downes who both join John on his album “On Ether & Air”, Joan Shelley who embodies Laura, one of the characters in Blek’s duet “The Body”, Nathan Salsburg of the Alan Lomax Archive who, with John is currently investigating lesser known folk songs that travelled from Ireland to America in the mid 1800s with the support and funding of the `Arts Council of Ireland and fellow Corkonian Mick Flannery who duets with him on Revived a single from the 2020 album “The Embers”.
Sarah Hickey is known for her reflective, ethereal yet earthy music.
After immersing herself in a performance Masters, the Cork based artist is now collating her own songs after years of crafting and developing her sound.
Sarah Hickey has just released her first track of the year ‘Looking For Trouble’ as a followup to her recent releases ‘Free’ and ‘Hollow’. She has performed in many venues throughout Ireland singing her own music and has provided backing vocals for various Irish artists. 2021 afforded Sarah the time to delve into more introspective work which has led to an exciting new chapter in her musical development.
“Soulful vocals” – The Music Files5 Blog UK
“Versatile vocal… which doffs its cap to the likes of Fleetwood Mac or Heart… introspective sombre tones with powerful peaks… soft and balmy timbre.” – REMY
“Sarah Hickey is an artist that can leave a mark with her art. Her single Hollow is a slice of dreamy, folkish indie pop, wrapped in bottleneck and slide guitar.” – Here Comes The Flood