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Jeff Black

Folklore – 2014 (LotosNile Music)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Jeff Black

"Folklore" is Jeff Black's most telling album to date. Not that it's filled with admission or confession, at least not in the same mode as today's sensationalistic, bare it all exposés. Rather, it's ably accompanied by a stark narrative style that's as revealing as it is reflective. The arrangements may be austere - Black performs solo, expressing his mettle on guitars, banjo and harmonica - but the rich imagery and descriptive encounters create vivid sepia-tinted hues that capture in detail another time and place, examples of awe and innocence seemingly lost forever.

In his liner notes, Black insists that these songs aren't drawn not only from his own back pages but also from the lifelines of others. "The narratives don't have near as much to do with me or the pictures I attempt to paint, as they do with the pictures people conjure up in their mind when they let them in," he writes.

And, indeed, the tale of the young boy and his sister who take a road trip with their dad in their weathered "63' Mercury Meteor," or the kids who take a day to explore the city on "#10 Bus" capture memories common to anyone who considered adolescence a time of wonder and discovery. If there is an overall sense of sadness and sobriety - the borrowed refrain that echoes the Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want" in Black's "Tom Domino" clearly reflects that feel - but the tone has more to do with bidding farewell to fading memories rather than any hint of regret or remorse.

Still, any evidence of bittersweet sentiment quickly gives way a kind of wistful nostalgia, one that reminds us it's better to cherish the present rather than lament the past. "Folklore" speaks to the sentimental dreamer in some of us and the homesick wanderer in us all.