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B-Sides and Confessions, Vol. 1

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Album Review

It's a good sign that Jeff Black has lent a helping hand to an A-list of folkies including John Prine and Iris Dement. Like these performers, he has an unusual voice, good material, and superb taste. With his rough and gruff vocals it wouldn't be surprising to hear Black compared to Tom Waits, but unlike the booziest of singers, he can sing it smooth when he chooses and never tries on the "I've just crawled out of the gutter" persona. Like any worthwhile singer-songwriter, Black pens his own material. Unlike many poets with guitars, however, his songs, like "Slip" and "Holly Roller," never sounds like he's busy searching for his inner child or just ended another relationship. Instead, his lyrics lean toward the elliptical, giving them a literary feel. In "Gold Heart Locket" he sings, "all night long/ I've been riding riding/ I should have been there by now/ but these old country roads/ got a lot of deep holes/ and the rain keeps pouring down," slowly warming up to his theme of loss. These songs are brought to fullness by simple arrangements and a straightforward production. Piano, guitar, and an occasional banjo are backed by bass and drums, giving Black a folk sound with a solid bottom end. The only snag on B-Sides and Confessions is that most of the songs are fairly slow paced, which causes the last two-thirds of the album to blend together. The album nonetheless succeeds in offering a singer-songwriter effort that doesn't fall into the usual singer-songwriter clichés. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., Rovi

Customer Reviews

"Close your eyes and let things happen…"

There’s great variety in this one. Jeff Black is equally adept at songs driven by guitar or piano. This album tosses in the surprise of a song accompanied by banjo and what a song it is. “Gold Heart Locket” encompasses love, loss, and trying to get back home on a night when all the elements are against you. It’s a favorite song in our house. I’m a sucker for a good love song and you can’t do much better than “To Be With You”, with its poignant lyrics and beautiful melody. On the sadder side, “Sunday Best” covers the thoughts of a child who has lost their father in a way I have never heard in a song (“…his watch and his ring were gone
, what are we going to do 
was never said out loud…”). If you haven’t experienced Jeff Black’s songwriting or heard his rich voice, this album or “Birmingham Road” are great first choices.


Born: Missouri

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Missouri native Jeff Black knew he wanted a career in music even before he hit his teens. When he was only ten years old, he persuaded his parents to buy him a guitar. In between school, and then later work, Black learned to play that guitar, to write songs, and to sing. Before he started his professional career in the music business, he worked at a gas station, a car wash, a warehouse, and even in a club as a bouncer. In his early twenties, Black began performing at Blayney's, the blues club where...
Full Bio