Washington DC native and current Providence resident Jake Blount has just won the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, more accurately called the “Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo & Bluegrass.” Hosted by the FreshGrass Foundation, Steve Martin’s Banjo Prize has now expanded to five awardees this year with a total of $50,000 divided between them.
Blount is the second Black artist to receive the Banjo Prize after Rhiannon Giddens, and his win comes with the reminder that the Banjo is first and foremost an African and African-American instrument. Jake’s new album foregrounded Black and Indigenous stories in Appalachian music, pulling forth centuries of pain and anger that had been coded into the music. Spider Tales is an especially relevant album of banjo and fiddle-based folk music for our time.
Blount remarked: “I’ve known about the Steve Martin Banjo Prize since I stumbled upon previous recipient Noam Pikelny’s work at the beginning of my slow voyage from rock music to bluegrass and old-time. In the intervening years I saw it go to seemingly untouchable musical talents, including my inspiring friends Rhiannon Giddens and Victor Furtado, and my respect for the committee and the prize only deepened. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel like I can match the technical skill or musical vision of the other awardees I so admire, but I can say I’m profoundly touched to know that the banjo legends and respected industry professionals on the award committee even know I exist. That they found my music deserving of such recognition means more than I can say.”
WhatUpNewp interviewed Blount last Spring when he released his album Spide Tales. Click here to read more.