“I’ve been thinking about this record, this kind of record, for a long, long, time. I’ve been working over time to see it clearer. As a listener and a writer, I move toward the songs that are born from a picture first. The torn old photo where my Grandma and her camera captured a moment around 1930 of two brothers and their dog on the sunny side of their house in the winter, has followed me around for 40-some years. The old print reveals more in its composition than I might ever write in a lifetime.” This is the exciting premise of Jeff Black for his new personal work “Folklore”.
“My Grandma Lotos played piano in church, my Great Grandad played guitar, as did my Uncle Lyle, who is standing on the left next to my Dad in the cover photo. My Dad played some guitar and the tenor banjo. There is a humble legacy here that started way back in the country, through the rites of dances and church socials, passed down through stories. I was told my Dad and his brother spent a good amount of time performing at barn dances around the country up in north Missouri when they were young. Coming up through the Great Depression, playing music for them was probably more out of hunger and necessity than the need for self expression or nurturing the luxury of emotion. I think itÂ’s the picture of my Dad looking into the camera, into the future, that inspires me, and the fade of my uncle into the unknown that keeps me searching.”
Jeff Black, in these 13 tracks, releases a depth of field as the one that an author photo or rather, an impressionist painting can convey. Jeff shows us his mind exposing his feelings in an intimate, genuine way. With the sound he leads us to the early history of folk music and with the words we relive all the humble greatness of difficult lives in search of a worthy future. Past generations, past or recent circumstances related to a photo, a name, a place. Detailed descriptions of moments, true anxieties and deep feelings. Anxieties and worries melt in delicate melodies as in “63 Mercury Meteor”. Delicious modulations join sweet sounds and a lost harmonica that lives in the extraordinary “# 10 Bus”. The imaginative title track “Folklore” is combined with “Rider coming” in which we recognize the tone and the style that Jeff Black has been able to come up with since the beginning of his long career as a story-teller.
Sometimes you meet great authors but they repeat themselves. Sometimes you listen to new nice proposals that have nothing new to say. Differently, “Folklore” transports us to an authentic and unusual dimension. Memories of a stormy past relived in “No quarter” help us to ransom and to walk towards the future in “Sing Together”: “if we sing together / if we dream together / if we can see more and / we can change the world if we can love / keeping us each other / sisters and brothers / We can change the world.”
“I wrote and recorded thirty plus songs for this album and the 13 that actually made it to the final release are the pictures I kept returning to. Not all of the songs are derived from my line of history. Some are for a fighting friend and a forgotten child. Others recount a ride on a city bus and a short study on never settling. 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. I did my best to explore both sides, the dark and the light lines that are drawn through all of us.” This is the message that Jeff Black gives with “Folklore”. Poetry and music that make us shudder.
Unsettling and original, timeless and detached from any commercial imposition, this “Folklore” amazes us and turns out to be one of the best albums of 2014. Well done, Jeff.
Claudio Cacchi aka Border Affair (Late For The Sky-Italy) translate in english by Nadia