Few can claim that ghost-writing love letters for inmates behind bars in a maximum-security prison replete with longing, lust, and remorse are a regular part of their day job.
To Adam Blacksmith, who has taught at Long Bay Gaol for more than a decade, the formidable challenges of working as a special education teacher serve as inspiration to his latest chapter “Blind to the Sea”. Playing the role of teacher, mentor and counsellor for his students, Blacksmith’s Day job provides the perfect muse and exploratory fodder for a brooding indie-folk album.
In his second full-length undertaking, Blacksmith continues inviting inquiry into issues that usually fly under-the-radar, yet are salient to the living of a fulfilled and connected life. Crime and punishment, relationships, identity and Australian Aboriginal history are but some of the topics achingly brought to life, with each song steeped in metaphor and intricately layered with prose that drip-feeds its secrets.
This instalment, sees the introduction of producer Jordan Ellery after a chance meeting as opponents in a squash tournament. While Blacksmith continues to draw influence from Augie March, Dylan and The Drones, his song writing has evolved with the help of classically trained Ellery to include melodic choruses and harmonies while remaining true to his folk-poet style. The collaboration has resulted in an eclectic sound that will have die-hard indie fans, folk fiends and shoe-gazing gin swillers nodding their heads in tandem.
The original release date for “Blind to the Sea” was planned for August 2021, however Adam took some time off to feature in the SBS documentary “Lost For Words” as the on-screen teacher an achievement he is extremely proud of.
In 2017, after the NSW prison reform saw education privatised and teachers made redundant, Blacksmith teamed up with Murray Cook his former colleague and music teacher of 21 years to embark on a song-writing project for inmates across NSW to write and record their own songs. The result was a stunning 21- song album, titled “Ballads behind Bars”, a body of work that encapsulates Blacksmith’s passion for giving voice to the voiceless.
Blacksmith’s stomping ground, Maroubra is more co-creator than mere backdrop. Its history of bedlam and disrepute belies the unpretentious camaraderie and down-to-earth community where Blacksmith forms part of the furniture. Maroubra’s proud Aboriginal history also strikes a very personal chord with Blacksmith who learned of his Darug lineage in adulthood. Songs such as “Home of Anangu” and “Blood on The Wattle” serve as tribute to his renewed sense of identity and pay homage to the untold trauma Aboriginal Australians and their land have endured for centuries.
Not unlike his milieu, Blacksmith too straddles dual music citizenship. While his subject matter and stage presence alludes to a pensive, straight-faced adult, his role as the resident screamer in the genre-bending metal-cabaret-circus-jazz band, CraZy BaBy BooGie BaNaNas reveals his comedic, laid back, and playful side.
Blind to The Sea is the brainchild of a songwriter unafraid to expose old wounds in the discovery of new gems. Fundamentally, it invites us to check our blind spots and the masks we wear in our haste to move forward and is a reminder that the sea cannot and will not be ignored as oblivious as we choose to be.
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