Growing up in a small Missouri town, Jeff Black started playing guitar, writing songs and performing while he was still a teenager. He then became an opening act for artists like John Prine, Steve Earle and Marie McKee. Black's 1998 major label debut, Birmingham Road, received rave reviews, and earned him a cult following. Today, Jeff Black is an independent artist. His latest release, B-Sides and Confessions, is a more scaled-down affair. But it's every bit as powerful as his debut.
Jeff Black self-produced his new CD, and the tracks are stripped-down and acoustic. Much of the music features a solo piano, guitar and banjo. Lone instruments allow you to concentrate on the powerful images in songs like Gold Heart Locket.
While B-Sides and Confessions is just his second album, Jeff Black is a veteran songwriter who's had other artists, including Waylon Jennings and the band Blackhawk, take his work to the top of the charts. Sam Bush has long been a champion of Jeff Black's work, and the song Same Old River is a staple of the bluegrass star's live shows.
Joan Kornblith: "I've always loved "Same Old River." Where did that song come from?"
Jeff Black: "I think it came from a time when I was kind of wishing I was almost anyone except for who I was at the time."
"I had these old biker friends of mine from New Jersey that had emigrated to Kansas City," continues Jeff Black. "And they came to every show, and they knew every song, and they sang them all terribly out of tune, really loud in front of the stage. They had these tattoos of Indians and pirates and cowboys all over. I mean they just had tattoos all over their arms. That picture is what set that off. And then just wanting to write something about really no matter what you may want to be or what you are, this whole world is pretty much the same old place that it's always been. And it's really not going to change."
Another standout track on Jeff Black's B-Sides and Confessions is Sunday Best. It's a song Jeff wrote soon after the death of his father.
"I'd written a song for my father. It's about the day of his funeral. It was a chance for me to say 'thank you,'" explains Jeff Black. "I'm really blessed. I didn't really leave too much unsaid to my Dad. We never had that 'father-son struggle' that a lot of people go through. I was really fortunate that way."
Five years ago, Jeff Black released a masterful debut album called Birmingham Road. B-Sides And Confessions is yet another strong collection of finely-crafted songs. Jeff Black writes songs from his own life experiences and they come straight from the heart.