Hear It First at Folk Alley ~ Jeff Black’s ‘Plow Through The Mystic’
Sounds strange, I know but wait, here’ s why: I’m a big Jeff Black fan. I stumbled across B-Sides and Confessions Vol. 1 years ago and that was it – Jeff Black was my new favorite singer songwriter and that album was my go-to recording for years. The music, the lyrics, the voice it all worked together for me in that magic way it does sometimes and, like a favorite book that suddenly offers a sequel, I was hesitant about wanting to distract myself from the perfection I’d already found by trying to hear something new.
So you can understand my trepidation. I got over it, eventually and I am oh-so-glad I did. Listening to Plow Through the Mystic was like having that first Jeff Black experience all over again.
With a cast of supporting musicians including Matraca Berg, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, Black has created another masterful music soundscape that tells more than one or two great stories. We’ve got the most human, the most honest description of asking for forgiveness I’ve ever heard with the second cut on the recording, a song called “Sorry,” we bump up along the fallout that occurs when religious zeal is taken to its most extreme in “Cure,” and we get to stand alongside a truly honest acknowledgment that sometimes, even though you know you’re lucky and you know you should be grateful for what you have in life, you’re just not in “Wounded Heart.”
These lyrics – so specific in describing their characters and their actions and yet so general that all of us can listen and relate in some way – are set off by the fact that there’s not a single misplaced chord or extraneous note in the entire recording. The instrumentation is never blowsy or overblown – it’s generally pretty spare (especially in the largely spoken word “Immigrant Song”) and it works well, allowing Black’s instrumental skills to shine and giving his guest musicians a few moments in the spotlight as well.
Jeff Black says he has felt a need to “observe and relate” since he was a kid and with Plow Through the Mystic, he has created a body of work that encourages anyone listening to observe and relate right along with him. He has been called “an artist of substance,” “a musical genius,” and someone whose music “reminds listeners how songwriting can trigger real emotion when it looks past the trivial” and this is all true. But the real reason to listen to and enjoy the new recording? It’s just good music.