Block performing in studio
|Birth name||Jamie Block|
|Origin||Long Island, New York|
|Genres||Anti-folk, Rock, Indie rock, alternative rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano|
|Labels||SonaBLAST! Records, Capitol Records, Java Records, Zensor|
Style and Lyrics
Block has been considered one of the early participants in New York's anti-folk movement, a raw and subversive form of folk music that is inspired heavily by punk rock and indie rock. Block includes a multitude of instruments and sounds within each album, including elements of punk rock, electronica, jazz and hip hop. Lyrically, Block focuses heavily on personal experiences and observations living in New York City.
Block grew up on Long Island, New York. He went to college to study English in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, but relocated to New York City, where he began his music career as a subway busker. In 1996, Block self-released his debut album, Lead Me Not Into Penn Station, which was well received by critics. In reviewing the album, Laurel Bowman of Alternative Press wrote that Block "practices the alchemy of melodious discord: pretty enough to draw you in, rough enough to keep you listening." The CD included CD-ROM content, including video clips, song lyrics, photos and a New York City guide. Block released a music video for the album song "Rhinoceros," which was broadcast on cable network MTV2.
Timing Is Everything
The positive reception for Penn Station helped Block book tours opening for The Brian Setzer Orchestra, Bob Mould, and They Might Be Giants, garnering notice from producer Glen Ballard. In 1998, Ballard, (known for co-writing and producing Alanis Morissette's album Jagged Little Pill) started the Capitol Records imprint Java, and chose Block to be the first signed artist. Java released Block's sophomore album, Timing is Everything, on October 6, 1998. The album was generally very well received by critics, with Karen Iris Tucker of Time Out New York calling the album "stellar" and Matthew S. Robinson of The Boston Globe stating that the album is "tight, important and definitely well-timed." Following the album's release, Block toured with a full band, including Mark Hutchins on drums and John Abbey on bass.
Several songs from the album appeared in feature films. "Rhinoceros" was featured in the 1999 romantic comedy Blast from the Past, "I Used to Manage PM Dawn" was featured in the 1999 Mary Lambert film Clubland, and Block's cover of the Perry Como song "Catch a Falling Star" was used in the opening credits for the 1999 romantic comedy Never Been Kissed.
Departure and Reemergence
Despite being well received critically, the album did not sell as much as expected, and Block was dropped from Java records. He ended up pursuing a career on Wall Street, getting a job as a financial advisor at a Manhattan investment firm. In the mid-2000s, he reportedly got interested in making music again after hearing one of his songs on Fordham University's non-commercial radio station WFUV. He connected with and was interviewed by WFUV DJ Claudia Marshall, who inspired him to record new material.
In March 2006, Block released this third album, The Last Single Guy, on indie label SonaBLAST! Records. Like his previous albums, it was critically well-received, with Jo-Ann Greene of Allmusic calling the album "enthralling" and noting that "like a bedside book, this album can be played in one sitting, but so much better to dip in and out of it over time, letting one's mood determine one's favorites for the day." Claudia Marshall of New York-based noncommercial radio station WFUV included the album in her "Best of 2006" list.
Whitecaps on the Hudson
In February of 2013, Block released his fourth full-length album Whitecaps on the Hudson. The album was produced by Dean Sharenow and was recorded at New York City recording studios Excello and Steel Cut Audio. Featured musicians include bassist Byron Isaacs of New York based folk band Ollabelle, guitarist Erik Della Penna who has recorded with Natalie Merchant and Joan Baez, and bassist Jeff Hill who was recorded with Rufus Wainwright.
The album has generally been praised by critics. In a positive review, critic Nick DeRiso stated that songs on the album "blend the brutal, hard-won spoken-word honesty of Lou Reed with a rootsy, rattling cadence" and said that Block is a "vocalist capable of subtle, deeply emotional complexity." Journalist Steven P. Marsh noted the personal nature of the songwriting, stating that the songs on the album "are perfectly crafted stories of a man whose life has had some twists and turns."
|Lead Me Not Into Penn Station||
|Timing Is Everything||
|The Last Single Guy||
|Whitecaps on the Hudson||
- Greene, Jo-Ann. "The Last Single Guy - Block". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Prato, Greg. "Timing Is Everything - Block". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Light, Alan (11 August 2006). "How Does It Feel, Antifolkies, to Have a Home, Not Be Unknown?". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Velisek, Melanie (12 February 1999). "Block Speaks About Stardom, Scotch, and Wordsmith". Florida Today (Melbourne, Florida).
- Roberts, Lee (10 April 1997). "Wilmington's music blooms with the festival". Morning Star (Wilmington, North Carolina). Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Bowman, Laurel (May 1997). "Lead Me Not Into Penn Station". Alternative Press.
- Palopoli, Steve (6 Feb 1997). "Night Moves". Good Times (Santa Cruz, California).
- Newman, Melinda (September 1998). "Block To Lead Glen Ballard's Java Into Market". Billboard.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Block: Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Tucker, Karen Iris (October 29 – November 5, 1998). "Block at Brownies; Wednesday, November 4". Time Out New York.
- Robinson, Matthew S. (31 December 1998). "Jamie Block Timing Is Everything; Java/Capitol". The Boston Globe. p. 8.
- Ramstetter, Michele (26 October 1998). "Over the Weekend, Mohawk Place". The Buffalo News (Buffalo, New York).
- "Biography". Amazon.com. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Clark, Paul (January–February 2010). "Jamie Block: A universe rekindled". The Hook. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Marshall, Claudia. "Best of 2006 Staff Picks: Claudia Marshall". WFUV. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- Whitecaps on the Hudson (booklet). Jamie Block. Jamie Block. 2013.
- DeRiso, Nick (15 March 2013). "Jamie Block – Whitecaps on the Hudson (2013)". Something Else! Reviews. Retrieved 13 May 2013.
- Marsh, Steven P. (27 February 2013). "Singer-songwriter Jamie Block shows he gets the rhythm of Rockland County life with Whitecaps on the Hudson". Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?. Retrieved 13 May 2013.