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Jeff Black

Thursday, May 26, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, 713-528-5999.

Jeff Black is one of those guys the public is barely cognizant of yet is known to virtually everyone in the Nashville songwriting fraternity. Black is essentially a solo singer-songwriter, one of the almost invisible craftsmen who populate the vast blurry creative backwoods of Nashville, just another moving part of the great songwriting engine that powers the industry limo, but on his upcoming album, Tin Lily (July 26 release), Black presents himself in a full ensemble setting that suits his voice and lyrics and immediately places him in the ranks of such sophisticated-but-barely-on-the-public-radar artists as Randall Bramblett and Stephen Bruton.

Like Bramblett and Bruton, Black situates himself musically in those half-spaces somewhere between folk, rock, alt-country and pop, and with a studio cast that includes Sam Bush, Kenny Vaughn, Will Kimbrough, and Craig Wright, he delivers confident performances that range from full-blast twang on "Libertine" to driving, early-Elton piano-pop on the terribly wise "Free at Last" to warm and friendly mid-tempo anthems like "Closer." Black's dark and brooding "Hard Way Out" is a highlight track that tiptoes down the dangerous high-wire between what is insightful and what is pretentiously heavy-handed without a false step.

Tin Lily is an obvious extension of Black's previous B Sides and Confessions, but this time he fleshes out the basic piano trio sound that dominated B Sides and made it such a quiet and spiritual record. Turning the horses loose on Tin Lily, Black makes a strong bid for a wider audience somewhere beyond the listening room and house concert scene.

 
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