home listen reviews artists a- z
Jeff Black

B-SIDES AND CONFESSIONS, VOL. 1 (Dualtone) • Jeff Black

Up early on Saturday, listening to new CDs by two distinguished songwriters, Dave Olney and Jeff Black. It's interesting to hear how essential their songs are, and how completely different they are from one another. B-Sides and Confessions made me real quiet inside, the pace is stately and measured, and every beat counts.

It's largely a great piano/vocal record, with a tasty rhythm section on some cuts. So that's a flavor all it's own, haven't had one of those in heavy rotation for a while. There's also a few sharp guitar cuts and one on banjo I can get through. And ten evocative stories. Some would call it heresy, but there are those who say that Steve Earle learned a lot from Jeff Black.

His voice has great dramatic range. When he's hitting it hard, it's a little like Springsteen, but a lot more like one of my favorites, Kevin Gordon. On the ballads, he may remind you more of Chapin, Marc Cohn, early Elton John. But that 's just his vocal sound, not his songs. His songs are deep and wide, they're all his own, and he's unto himself in this realm. Although he is a sky high craftsman, these are heart and soul compositions.

Birmingham Road, his '98 debut on Arista, got very good press but it sounded different from the Jeff Black we'd seen live, and different from the demos I'd heard at my friend's studio. That happens a lot, of course. And some of Wilco were on it, and Iris DeMent, and the country band Blackhawk took the song "That's Just About Right" to #1...

As good as that record was, we know that fans of Jeff Black will really give it up for B-Sides and Confessions, Vol. 1. He threw down hard, and it sounds mighty. Show you care, and buy it here. • FG

view cover      listen to clips      jeffblack.com

puremusic home