CD Review: Jeff Black – B-Sides and Confessions, Volume Two (Lotos Nile, 2013)
Nashville singer-songwriter Jeff Black complements his previous volume of B-sides and Confessions (one he presciently suffixed with “Vol. 1” back in 2003) with this second helping. It’s an unexpected treat, given that his last album, Plow Through the Mystic, is just a year old. Though a couple of tracks, including the lead-off “All Right Now,” end too quickly, the notion of “B Sides” is more a humble moment of self-deprecation than a fair assessment of the material’s quality and readiness. The latter half of the album’s title is the more apt description, as Black’s country-tinged folk music is personal and touching. Whether singing in his own voice or that of characters, Black’s songs are revealing in their observation point. “Alice Carry” is a widow looking back, but rather than memorializing regret at what wasn’t, she displays contentment with what was. Black turns inward for “True Love Never Let Me Down,” but rather than simply observing himself, he observes others critiquing his work. Black is joined by fellow singer-songwriters Matraca Berg and Gretchen Peters, and instrumentalists Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, but as on all his previous releases, his words and voice hold down center stage with a craft so deeply in the artistic pocket that it obscures anything outside.