Karen Nunis Blackstone is a Malaysian singer/songwriter and visual artist based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Singapore. Dark Sun Big Rain is her newly released second album. Mainly acoustic in nature, the 10 tracks on the album (plus one unlisted bonus track) reveal a melting pot of genres much like the background of the artist herself, who comes from a mixed Malaysian heritage. Born to a Malaccan Portuguese father and a Chinese/Sri Lankan mother, Karen has spent some years in Japan with her American husband & creative partner, Brad Blackstone, their daughter Billie and a fierce cat named Neo.
If all this sounds exotic, Karen would be the first to balk at the idea. As a person whose next passion after music and art is traveling, Karen is continually aware of the similarities between cultures and peoples. Apart from living in Malaysia and Japan, Karen has spent significant time in the U.S. doing road trips, hanging out in her husband’s native southern Ohio, exhibiting her art and playing music. (She was also the recipient of a fellowship from the Freeman Foundation to do her art at the Vermont Studio Center.) Karen has traveled to other parts of Asia as well, including India, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, and throughout Europe. These experiences have clearly influenced the images in her art and music.
Each song on Dark Sun Big Rain was written by Karen and Brad. One song, "Blow Till I Be," opens with an old hymn that daughter Billie sings as an intro. Karen sang this hymn in catechism class and in the church choir when she was in a convent school as a young girl. (Though schooled in Malay, Karen considers English to be her first language because that was the main one spoken at home.)
Karen’s musical influences range from Bach to Bowie, Willie Dixon to Manu Chao, and she started her career singing blues, rock and jazz with club bands in Malaysia and then Japan. Her fans have often noted that she combines a small frame with “that big voice.”
In the mid 1990s, after she started playing the guitar, she began to write her own music. Her first international release, Give Me Sanity, appeared in 2000 and garnered airplay and encouraging press in America, Europe, Southeast Asia and Japan. Since Give Me Sanity, which was hailed by allmusic.com as “a good to excellent indie debut,” Karen has been developing her poetry, rhythms and melodies into what has been described by another reviewer as “an intoxicating brew of songs.”
With Dark Sun Big Rain, Karen’s fans and new listeners alike will find her voice, guitar playing and songwriting skills in full blossom.
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