Like looking out a bay window at the grey poetry that is life, Jeff Black’s music is immediate in its grip and touching in its view of humanity. Black is a bard with the baritone contemplation of Leonard Cohen and the roots dialect of Townes Van Zandt; he writes songs that ache and haunt you, songs that trigger your empathy.
On this, Black’s ninth album, he again showcases the talents that have made him a sought-after writer to artists like Alison Krauss and Dierks Bently. Guests like Sam Bush, who contributes mandolin and fiddle, and Jerry Douglas, with resonator and lap steel, guide Black’s sometimes despondent and stark tales, like the murder ballad “Molly Rose,” where Black’s protagonist revels in his crime (“I hope the blade I buried in his belly still burns”).
Black’s dark beauty resonates in the quieting piano of “Impala,” a tragic tale of the naivety of childhood hero worship, and the tear-inducing acoustic passages of “Days on End.” Black’s melancholia is glorious in its presentation and at peace with its resolution—or lack thereof.
Black’s “confessions” are a painfully real listen, providing a satisfying catharsis to a despondent psyche.
– Mark Uricheck