GuitartownCT Presents Jake Blount with Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer and Chao Tan at Cafe Amici in Hamden

Jake Blount (courtesy of the artist)


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Jake Blount stands on a sheer New England ocean cliff, waves crashing far below, singing the African American spiritual “Once There Was No Sun.” Wearing a turban and futuristic robes, his voice is accompanied by crisp hand claps, vocals, fiddle and banjo. Dance artist Veeva Banga moves to the rhythms on a nearby peninsula of rock, reaching to the sky.

There is precarity on these precipices, but there’s also buoyancy in the beat, the dance, the lyrics.

The song “Once There Was No Sun” is very old. It was recorded by Bessie Jones and the Georgia Sea Island Singers in the 1960s. It may date back more than a half-century earlier. But Blount’s re-envisioning makes it sound startlingly contemporary. The lyrics appear freshly written for the times, though not a word has been changed. Blount’s re-setting elicits hidden messages from this African American spiritual: climate disaster, suffering and triumph, angelic singing in the midst of danger. The song resonates for today clearly.

Hamden bluegrass mecca GuitartownCT Productions will present this re-envisioning singer, banjoist and fiddler for a Saturday March 2 show at Cafe Amici in Hamden. Joining him will be two multi-instrumentalist virtuosos and Grammy Award winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, along with Chinese dulcimer virtuoso Chao Tian. 

Cathy Fink, Marcy Marxer and Chao Tian (Courtesy of the artists)

Once There Was No Sun” is a featured song on The New Faith, Blount’s Afro-futuristic concept album. Through the songs he imagines Black and Brown communities seeking refuge from climate crisis. They travel the Northeast Coast, shunned and persecuted along the way. The songs — some of them from pre-Civil War era — time-travel between past and future.

Blount, a Providence-based recording artist and a scholar on Black folk music traditions, notes he is “going backward and forward at the same time” in his musical journey. His entire catalogue reveals traditional and radical ways of exploring Black musical message, storytelling and ritual.

Fink and Marxer, a Maryland-based duo self-described as “an eclectic folk festival on their own terms,” are globally recognized multi-instrumentalists and singers. Experts in guitar, banjo, ukelele, mandolin and many other instruments, they appear and teach at bluegrass and folk festivals all over the country. They have toured internationally to China, Malaysia, and Papa New Guinea through the U.S. Department of State’s American Voices Abroad.

Here they collaborate with Chinese traditional musician Chao Tan, who will also be appearing in the GuitartownCT show, on Chinese hammered dulcimer:

GuitartownCT, founded by guitarist and presenter Chris Wuerth, has been bringing folk music to intimate performance settings in the Hamden area for seventeen years.

Wuerth has been almost entirely dedicated to presenting bluegrass — his first connection with the form was the late virtuoso guitar-picker Tony Rice, whom he presented in 2008. But Wuerth also sees bluegrass as sharing musical ancestry with Southern old-time folk music and African American spiritual traditions, arising in Black and White churches amidst slavery and segregation in the South.

“A lot of the songs themselves have similarities,” he says.

Wuerth presented Jake Blount in 2021, the first GuitartownCT show emerging from the Covid lockdown. He was interested this time in how Blount’s work re-envisioning spirituals would blend with Fink and Marxer’s old-time sound, along with the global influence of Chao Tan  — a unique collaboration among different forms, cultures, and generations of players.

The upcoming season at GuitartownCT continues on Friday, March 15 with North Carolina stringed-instrument wunderkind Liam Purcell & Cane Mill Road, and later Lyle-Lovette-backing fiddler Luke Bulla on Saturday, April 20. Wuerth also notes there is a GuitartownCT bluegrass podcast project in the works.

For more information, contact Chris Wuerth at, or visit: