Pam M. from MANCHESTER, CT Reviewed on 10/22/2014...
Jeff is a treasure. Wish he found his way up North more. He is a very talented singer song writer. I enjoy anything he creates.
One of the best of the last decade -- yes, that's right
Music fan | Norfolk, VA USA | 04/07/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Jeff Black is yet another songwriter whose career was sidetracked by record-company foolishness. After Arista released his superb debut, "Birmingham Road," in 1998 (with help from some of the guys in Wilco), the label dropped him, leaving his followup disc orphaned (it's due for release later this year, finally). In the meantime, he's released "B-Sides and Confessions Volume One," an intimate, soulful and thoughtful collection of stripped-down music. As noted, the title is only half right. These are confessions, but they are not B sides. Black is a rarity, a poet who produces quietly compelling sing-alongs that, upon closer reflection, challenge you to think. No wonder artists as diverse as Ellis Paul and Vance Gilbert, who recorded his "What Do I Want" for their latest disc, and country stars Blackhawk, who made his "That's Just About Right"a number one hit, have covered his songs. But none of them have Black's most appealing asset: his soulful, experienced voice with enough of Tom Waits' grit to establish credibility. That voice and his songs combine to make this a disc that demands you hit "repeat all" on the player when loading. Black has a knack for choosing just the right instrument to frame his words. His breathy count off and acoustic strumming open "Same Old River," a song that finds Black imagining himself as, variously, an indian, a pirate, slave and an outlaw. "I'd rob a trian bound for glory, baby, if I thought I needed a ride." he sings in outlaw mode. "Sunday Best," a heartbreakingly beautiful song about loss, opens with Black at the piano. "To Be with You," a mature, honest love song, marries Jody Nardone's piano and Craig Wright's shuffle. "Down in my evening chair, I've got you there to pilot me straight through to show me what it means to be with you," Black sings. "Gold Heart Locket" surprises with a banjo for its backbone (think something out of the Mark Knopfler catalog). And "Bless My Soul" returns to fingerpicking to highlight Black's ruminations. With "B Sides and Confessions, Volume One," Black has created one of the most affecting -- and best -- singer/songwriter albums of 2003 or any other year in recent memory. It's filled with rare treasures that linger long after the music stops. If you can, pick up "Honey and Salt" from his website. It features several more stunning songs, including "One Last Day to Live" and the title track."
I CONFESS! I LOVE THIS ALBUM!!!
Katryna Wright | Nashville, TN United States | 10/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This album is simply awesome and is definitely one of my ten 'desert island' records. Jeff's voice is so soulful and naturally amazing and his songwriting is some of the best I've ever heard! 'Sunday Best' still makes me weepy, 'Holy Roller' is so groovy and moody, 'Gold Heart Locket' is such a touching story with a cool quirky sound (love the banjo!), 'To Be With You' is a gorgeous love song so tenderly sung, I could go on and on; there isn't a bad song on this whole album! It flows so well and seamlessly that when it's done I wish there were ten more of Jeff's songs right behind it. Luckily I ordered 'Honey & Salt' from Blue Rose Records in Germany, so there are more superbly executed and well-crafted tunes to put in the player right after B-Sides.
The talent in this town is astounding and Jeff is at the top of the list. If you have the opportunity to see him live, DO IT without hesitation!! The inevitable Tom Waits comparison comes to mind as you see him over the piano with a cocktail and a smoke, telling tales in his deep, soothing voice. Purchase this album with confidence, your money is well invested here."
One of the best records you've never heard
Steven Lyle | Sacramento, Ca United States | 08/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I stumbled upon Jeff Black one day at Borders(sorry, Amazon) and was immediately drawn to a description of Black as a cross between Springsteen and Townes Van Zandt. There's a little Neil Young in there, too, with the terrific closer, Higher Ground. This is an excellent record that is always top-of-mind when selecting rotations for my home CD player."
Look forward to the A-sides
Craig Clarke | New England | 09/04/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Though this is certainly taking the easy road via cliche, I have to say that if Jeff Black's new album is truly comprised of B-sides and Confessions, then I am going to love an album of "A-sides" because this is some of the best songwriting I have heard in years. "Slip" begins by inadvertently reminding the listener of "All My Loving," not, in any other case, an auspicious beginning. But the triumph of the song is that the listener immediately forgets about the Beatles and instead pays attention to Jeff Black and his Joe Cocker voice. The Cocker comparison lessens on the next song, "Same Old River," while the singing mixes with the guitar to bring out the yearning. Michael Webb's heavy bass punctuates "Holy Roller" and makes it groove. If your head hasn't been bobbing before now, it will start now. Add that to the visual of "Farrakhan and Jerry Falwell were playing tic tac toe" and you come out with a classic song. Black's voice is similar to Randy Newman here, which fits the irreverent mood. It seems incomplete, as it ends abruptly, but it's still the best song on the album. "Sunday Best" doesn't really do it for me, but "To Be with You" more than makes up for it, evoking Glen Campbell at his best. Joey Nardone's piano, Craig Wright's brushing drum, and Black's understated guitar all blend into a "traveling" sound that adds another layer, as if he is already on his way. Banjo surprises pleasantly on "Gold Heart Locket." Black knows how to pick the right instrument for his songs. It makes a sad song more tolerable; it's hard to be down when you're hearing that happy plunking sound. Plaintive piano marks the beginning of "Cakewalk," then the fingers move to the left for a deeper sound and "Bless My Soul's" thrumming guitar reaches down inside you to pull out a little bit of Leonard Cohen. "Bastard" is a weaker "high-concept" tune, but "Higher Ground" ends the album beautifully. Harmonica, bass, drums, and guitar are layered into a true foot-tapper. I didn't like the ones that featured the piano, coincidentally, but this is a minor complaint because the bulk of Jeff Black's B-sides and Confessions: Volume One leaves the listener feeling as satisfied as after a really good meal."
Singer-Songwriter Era Alive Again
Lee Armstrong | Winterville, NC United States | 04/12/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
""B-Sides & Confessions" is a gorgeous CD. It harkens back to the 70s when Jackson Browne & Carole King were the hottest acts around. Black's earlier "Birmingham Road" was a gorgeous outing. This one slows the pace a bit, but with the songs maintaining an individuality. The craft in the writing is exceptional. "Slip" starts out like you're going to hear the Beatles' "All My Loving" and quickly moves into other territory with Jeff's pounding piano like emotional bullets, "I've seen spirits in the wild wood; I've seen cause go spilling out; I've drank more than I've needed to just to find my heart." "Same Old River" is a pretty tune that communicates strength through adversity. "Holy Roller" has a blues tinge while "Sunday Best" is utterly beautiful with its wistful reflectiveness. "To Be With You" has me reaching for the repeat button with its soft melody like a Jimmy Buffett samba. "Gold Heart Locket" with its plunky banjo backing is a sweet melody. "Bless My Soul" is my instant favorite with its haunting guitar, "I'm on a roll & I begin to see the light." The CD concludes with two more strong tunes, "Bastard" & "Higher Ground." On this CD Jeff creates an exquisite set that traverses a deep emotional landscape. While I might enjoy couple more belting toe tappers, Black moves from strength to strength on this best of the year quality gem! Enjoy!"