Live at Skunkworks
Like Neil Young or Steve Earle, two Philadelphia musicians doggedly follow a gritty and uncompromising musical path with their electric/acoustic duo... Frank Blank may have been Philadelphia's authority on rock music for over two decades spent writing for Philadelphia City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly, but he was never one who subscribed to the old critic theory, "those that can't play music write about it." Beginning in the 1980s, he was the founder and guitarist of Philadelphia's influential punk band Informed Sources, then was enlisted for album and tour duty as co-lead guitarist for Bunnydrums, aiding the groundbreaking avant rockers in the exploration of new sonic territory. Richard Black was an established artist and photographer, but of greater import was his musical heritage: signed at a young age to Dot/Paramount Records as a member of Bubble, Black was horrified to find himself on the same label as Pat Boone and Eddie Fisher. But with encouragement from lead singer Stewkey of the influential band the Nazz, Black soon was swimming in more experimental waters: a free-form performance slot with Philadelphia's progressive Old City Arts association, where he made the most of an opportunity to hone his songwriting skills while collaborating with a colorful array of players and characters. So when Blank met Black in the early 1990s, he sensed a kindred spirit. The creative visions of the two musicians instantly meshed, and the Black-Blank musical alliance was born... The two guitarists first joined aural forces in Third Stone Invasion. A concept project that combined progressive rock and metal, the band's 1998 album explored the potential of alien intervention in the affairs of Planet Earth. J-Bird Records, headed by Polygram and EMI executive Jay Barbieri, saw the potential of "3SI" and soon Black and Blank were labelmates with The Who's John Entwistle, Billy Squier, and Andrew Gold. Third Stone Invasion was released to an enthusiastic critical reception in the world of rock. France's Divergence Radio raved over Black and Blank's talent to "demonstrate with great ability all the tricks an electric guitar is capable of." And critic Ramsay Pennypacker noted, "Third Stone Invasion fills their playing with inspired, witty twists that lift it's sound far above the mundane, mallrat appeal of most metal... Their eponymous debut on J-Bird Records is one of the freshest albums in recent memory. Hopefully, this is just the beginning.\' Sadly, it was to be the end, as J-Bird Records sailed directly into the economic storm at the turn of the decade that saw dozens of record labels fold and hundreds of artists cast adrift. Black and Blank hunkered down, experimenting with atmospheric blues and high-volume guitar pyrotechnics. But then a crucial realization dawned: they didn't need a band - all they needed was their songs. Born again as a modern electric/acoustic duo, Black Blank embrace their calling: to play honest, forceful music depicting the experience of life. In a pop culture wasteland proud of it's endless regurgitation of kiddie pop, crowning it's posturing rappers, and unleashing it's army of American Idol castoffs, real songs have become a precious commodity. Yet Black Blank is just such a source of musical substance. Their perceptive lyrics touch on emotions ranging from anger to love to regret; the powerful, direct music is crafted with tone, invention, and feeling. It's a combination that's needed now more than ever. The real story of Black Blank is simple: songs powered by life.