Artist: JEFF BLACK
Album: PLOW THROUGH THE MYSTIC
Release Date: 11.22.11
Label: Lotos Nile Music
UPC: 751653100226

JEFF BLACK: Vocals, Guitar, Piano, Keyboards,
Banjo, Bass, Programming & Percussion
SAM BUSH: Mandolin, Octave Mandolin & Slide Mandolin
JERRY DOUGLAS: Resonator Guitar & Lap Steel
KENNY WRIGHT: Drums & Percussion on Waiting
MATRACA BERG: Harmony Vocals on Sorry
GRETCHEN PETERS: Harmony Vocals on Sorry
KIM RICHEY: Harmony Vocals on Run
Produced by JEFF BLACK
Executive Producer KISSY BLACK
Recorded by JEFF BLACK at Arcana Studios, Nashville
Additional Recording by JEZ ASHURST
at Diversion Studios, London
Mixed by DAVE SINKO
Mastered by JOE PALMACCIO
Artwork and Design Torne White with Jeff Black

Jeff Black plays Epiphone Masterbilt Banjos, Paige capos, Morley Pedals, Impact Picks, Palomino Blackwing and Blackwing 602 pencils





PopMatters

Jeff Black writes songs that call to mind Greg Brown, Bill Morrissey, and Townes Van Zandt. His voice can make time stand still and his lyrics are some of the finest in the land. This latest set continues a tradition established on earlier albums such as Tin Lily and Honey and Salt, the tradition of an artist delivering songs that are damn near perfectly crafted and filled with the wisdom of the ages. Highlights include “Walking Home”, the title song, “Waiting”, and “What I Would Not Do”. Plow Through The Mystic is worth taking your time with, listening to and absorbing slowly, as one would the work of a fine writer such as William Faulkner. Why? Because you can’t handle the truth men like this speak, not all at once. By Jedd Beaudoin - 15 December 2011


No Depression | Hyperbolium

Jeff Black - Plow Through the Mystic (Lotos Nile, 2011) Nashville-based singer/songwriter Jeff Black has some heavy friends, including mandolinist Sam Bush, guitarist Jerry Douglas and singer/songwriters Matraca Berg, Gretchen Peters and Kim Richey. And though they all lend a hand on his fifth solo album, it’s Black’s voice ­ both singing and writing ­ that gives the album its soul. Black also played most of the instruments, overdubbing himself on guitar, banjo, keyboards, bass and percussion, but the only hint of one-man-bandism is the music’s tight grip on the songs. Black’s voice takes on many different shades, at various times recalling the downtown soul of Willy DeVille, the gruff side of Springsteen, the melodic saloon growl of Tom Waits, the deadpan of James McMurtry, the rye twinkle of Randy Newman and even a few moments of Neil Diamond’s pop-soulfulness. Black draws from country, folk, soul, blues, gospel and contemporary pop, offering songs that range from the contemplative banjo solo of “Virgil’s Blues” to the foot-tapping Little Feat-inflected title track. Jerry Douglas laces his twang throughout “Walking Home,” but the husk in Black’s voice is more Memphis than Nashville, and his lyric ­ an internal monologue anticipating a forthcoming explanation ­ isn’t your standard country fare. Black writes phrases and draws images that are easily known, but connects them into verses that recast the easy first understanding. Early in the album, his characters are caught in dilemmas that find them on the verge of apologizing, disaffected from their taught beliefs, and weighed down by riches. But the album takes a more grounded and optimistic turn with “New Love Song” and the turmoil in Black’s head subsides with the acceptance of “Waiting.” Still, even as he embraces a less guarded life, his happiness seems to be that of a cynic who finds potential loss at the root of joy, one who counsels “you’re going to find out just how heavy happiness can be.” He closes the album with the confessional “Ravanna,” contemplating the physical and emotional distances one travels from childhood, and meditating on the relationship between human frailty and divine grace. The travel from inner turmoil, through confession, awareness and acceptance suggests the pages of a personal journal, but one whose journey is still a work in progress.

Folk Alley

Hear It First: Jeff Black ~ Plow Through the Mystic I did not want to listen to Jeff Black's new CD. I was almost dreading it, in fact. Sounds strange, I know but wait, here' s why: I'm a big Jeff Black fan. I stumbled across B-Sides and Confessions Vol. 1 years ago and that was it - Jeff Black was my new favorite singer songwriter and that album was my go-to recording for years. The music, the lyrics, the voice it all worked together for me in that magic way it does sometimes and, like a favorite book that suddenly offers a sequel, I was hesitant about wanting to distract myself from the perfection I'd already found by trying to hear something new. So you can understand my trepidation. I got over it, eventually and I am oh-so-glad I did. Listening to Plow Through the Mystic was like having that first Jeff Black experience all over again. With a cast of supporting musicians including Matraca Berg, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, Black has created another masterful music soundscape that tells more than one or two great stories. We've got the most human, the most honest description of asking for forgiveness I've ever heard with the second cut on the recording, a song called "Sorry," we bump up along the fallout that occurs when religious zeal is taken to its most extreme in "Cure," and we get to stand alongside a truly honest acknowledgement that sometimes, even though you know you're lucky and you know you should be grateful for what you have in life, you're just not in "Wounded Heart." These lyrics - so specific in describing their characters and their actions and yet so general that all of us can listen and relate in some way - are set off by the fact that there's not a single misplaced chord or extraneous note in the entire recording. The instrumentation is never blowsy or overblown - it's generally pretty spare (especially in the largely spoken word "Immigrant Song") and it works well, allowing Black's instrumental skills to shine and giving his guest musicians a few moments in the spotlight as well. Jeff Black says he has felt a need to "observe and relate" since he was a kid and with Plow Through the Mystic, he has created a body of work that encourages anyone listening to observe and relate right along with him. He has been called "an artist of substance," "a musical genius," and someone whose music "reminds listeners how songwriting can trigger real emotion when it looks past the trivial" and this is all true. But the real reason to listen to and enjoy the new recording? It's just good music. - Elena See Folk Alley/Folkalley.com


Johnny's Garden | Rein Van Den Berg

Er zijn alweer een aantal jaren verstreken sinds Jeff Black’s laatste officiële cd verscheen. De vorige, Mining, was bij mijn weten slechts verkrijgbaar als een “aflaadbaar” exemplaar. Een album met overwegend liedjes uit Blacks pre-Birmingham Road periode. Het bevatte zelfs twee nummers van dat debuut, uitgevoerd in een kale versie. Bevrijd van mogelijke pracht en praal. Weinig aandacht werd geschonken aan Mining, niet in de laatste plaats door Jeff Black zelf. Qua uitdrukkingsvermogen allerminst een ondergeschoven project, maar die indruk kreeg je wel door de haast onverschillige manier waarop hij werd uitgebracht. Alsof Jeff genoeg had van de muziekbusiness, en door zijn wijze van handelen een stil protest opvoerde. Nu staat Plow Through the Mystic op punt van verschijnen. Integraal te beluisteren op internet tot de verschijningsdatum: 22 november. Ik heb het gehele oeuvre van Jeff Black in de kast staan. Vond hem altijd een uitstekend singer-songwriter. Wellicht zelfs enigszins ondergewaardeerd. Met Plow Through the Mystic doet hij alle twijfels over zijn carričre verstommen, want ik kan me enkel voorstellen dat de man met deze nieuwe plaat zijn naam permanent gaat vestigen. De twijfel voorbij, de ploeg doorklieft de mystiek. Muziek met een overtuiging om bij beurten warm en koud van te worden. Een puntgave productie! Een subtiel versierde bare-bone. Smaakvolle momenten hebben mijn oren uitsluitend kunnen ontwaren. Nergens kreeg ik de behoefte om door te spoelen naar een volgende track, en iedere keer wanneer de plaat eindigde begon ik weer opnieuw. Muziek in de geest van Malcolm Holcolm, Eric Taylor en Tom Waits, maar volstrekt eigenzinnig. Een album dat je op je gemak, in alle rust, tot je moet nemen. Virgil’s Blues alleen al is voldoende om je in een gewichtloze toestand te brengen. Kort, maar zeer gevoelig vastgelegd, waarbij de argeloze luisteraar ademloos achterblijft. Jeff heeft voor de gelegenheid een paar voortreffelijke musici weten te lijmen. Twee snarenwonders in de vorm van Sam Bush en Jerry Douglas laten horen waarop hun reputatie gebaseerd is. Jeff Black heeft zichzelf een periode gegund om alles op een rijtje te zetten. Hij heeft zich geen eenvoudige taak gesteld, heeft echter het kaf van het koren gescheiden. Het resultaat is er naar. Een plaat die volstrekt in balans is en mijns inziens geen zwakke momenten bevat. Een album om het jaar 2011 waardig mee af te sluiten.


Roots Time

Ik was om allerlei redenen nog niet toegekomen aan de nieuwste soloplaat van de in Nashville wonende singer-songwriter Jeff Black, maar nu ik deze plaat eindelijk goed heb kunnen beluisteren, kon ik echt niet langer wachten. Jeff Black is zeker geen onbekende voor me. Met zijn debuut album "Birmingham Road" uit 1998 maakte hij een onuitwisbare indruk. Voor deze plaat mocht hij de mannen van Wilco lenen, zonder Jeff Tweedy weliswaar. Een kleine vijf jaar later pakt Jeff Black iets kaler uit met "Honey and Salt" (2003). Maar daarom niet minder mooi. In 2005 verscheen het album "Tin Lily", ook deze cd is wederom in een donkere hoes gestoken en kent een dozijn mooie vertelliedjes die hem een stuk ouder doen klinken dan hij waarschijnlijk werkelijk is. Toch bezwijkt de plaat onder het zwaarmoedige en bloedserieuze sfeertje van de meeste liedjes. Jeff Black werd ondertussen vergeleken met het werk van talentvolle singer-songwriters als Eric Taylor en Eric Andersen, en wat mij betreft heeft deze troubadour reeds een plekje verdiend tussen de grote singer-songwriters van de afgelopen 15 jaar. Black werd helaas slechts in zeer kleine kring opgepikt, maar zelf koester ik zijn platen nog steeds als parels in mijn platenkast. Omdat succes uitbleef heeft Black zichzelf een periode gegund om alles op een rijtje te zetten, en dit heeft hem blijkbaar ook goed gedaan, want met zijn nieuwste album "Plow Through The Mystic", is Black wederom door de grote poort binnengetreden. Op dit album draait weer alles om zijn geweldige stem en dat is een wijs besluit. De stem van Jeff Black is al vaak vergeleken met die van Willy DeVille, James McMurtry, Randy Newman, maar dat zijn slechts drie zijden van het krachtige en bijzonder veelzijdige stemgeluid van Black, dat soms ook wel wat heeft van de norse kant van Springsteen, de melodische grom van Tom Waits en zelfs een paar momenten aan Neil Diamond's pop-soul getinte stem doet denken. Black’s valkuil is dat hij de ruimte die door de ingetogen instrumentatie wordt opengelaten volledig wil vullen met zijn soms stevig uithalende en soms zelfs wat theatrale vocalen, maar op zijn nieuwe plaat weet hij deze valkuil aardig te omzeilen, waardoor de plaat gevoeliger en indringender klinkt dan zijn voorgangers. Dit is overigens deels de verdienste van Dave Sinko aan wie Jeff de mixing van deze plaat toevertrouwde. Maar niet alleen Dave Sinko, bekend van zijn werk met The Punch Brothers, Sam Bush en de legende Don Williams zorgde ook Joe Palmacchio (Jeff Buckley, Bill Withers, Hank Williams Sr) voor een vlekkeloze mastering, waardoor de sound een sober, stemmig en bijzonder trefzeker geluid meekreeg. "Plow Through The Mystic" laat een overtuigende singer-songwriter horen die nodig iets te vertellen heeft in zijn bekende mengsel van korrelige neo-folk en blues. Veel sobere en aardedonkere songs die stuk voor stuk de ontroerendste verhalen vertellen. Black beschikt over een prettige stem en heeft een stel prima muzikanten om zich heen verzameld die de juiste muzikale accenten weten te leggen. Zijn medium-tempo songs en ballads zijn ingetogen geďnstrumenteerd: gebaseerd op akoestische instumenten, ondersteund door effectief swingende drums worden de accenten meestal gelegd doorpiano, banjo en lap steel. Maar het zijn vooral de twee snarenwonders, Sam Bush en Jerry Douglas, die zijn warme stem onderstrepen in zijn veelal ontroerende teksten. Deze plaat biedt vooral meer uiterst rustige, onderkoelde liedjes waarin hij het vooral heeft over zijn persoonlijke paden van het geloof, twijfel en geestelijke onrust. Maak u alvast klaar voor een reis tussen de menselijke zwakheid en de goddelijke genade. Hierin overtreft hij diverse malen zichzelf met een aantal nummers als "Walking Home" en "Immigrant Song", ballads die zonder twijfel de beste genoemd mogen worden die wij van hem kennen. Andere muzikale hoogtepunten op deze cd zijn "Virgil's Blues" met een mooie banjo solo, de Little Feat getinte titeltrack en het bevlogen "Run". Jeff Black beschikt niet enkel over een mooie rustgevende stem, maar is daarbuiten ook een onderscheiden dichter, die in zijn nummers met zijn onnadrukkelijke woorden een continue sfeer van ontroering oproept. Hij is daarbij waarnemer, geen deelnemer. Een aantal keren is een song iets meer optimistisch, zoals "New Love Song", maar dit nummer is dan weer zo mooi om tranen van in de ogen te krijgen. Zijn verteltrant lijkt gemakkelijk, maar dat is juist de kunst. Vakbroeders erkennen zijn talent dan ook terecht. Naast Bush en Douglas, zingen ook Gretchen Peters, Matraca Berg en Kim Richey afwisselend mee, op deze vlekkeloos volgespeelde en door hem zelf geproducete en in diens eigen Arcana Studio opgenomen cd. Wereldschokkend wordt het nergens, wel oerdegelijk en geloofwaardig van begin tot eind. Maar al bij al een album dat bijzonder aangenaam wegluistert en waarmee Jeff Black eindelijk de welverdiende doorbraak kan bewerkstelligen.

- Freddy Celis

Walking Home

from new hope to fairview
when I was just a boy
past the monuments to certainty
the confederate soldiers joy

I remember walking home at midnight
down cemetery road
listening to my footsteps
and some crazy old stray dog

just because I believe in love
just because I believe in love
doesn't mean I'm a pushover baby

so for the sake of argument I shouted
but no one could hear the sound
of shattered glass and disappointment
and all my theories just come tumbling down

that you need a witness to be happy
solid numbers to be known
that there is some sort of honor here in the suffering
for all the little foolish things I've done

just because I break some laws
just because I break some laws
doesn't mean I'm a criminal baby

it took so long to cut through how I feel
what's mine is the reward here and not the deal
it's just a field of stone and an ushers crown
then there's orion through the timber
december's come and gone again
steady now keep moving we're going to get there
by the makers hand

understanding must mean something
what I don't know
what I don't know
what I don't know
seems like I'm always searching for some meaning
it's patience and providence I suppose

now it's gratitude for faint mistakes
and the power to refute
hacksaws and forgiveness
a little time down by the river
is something I could use about now

just because I'm walking in the shadows
just because I'm walking in the shadows
don't mean I'm a vagrant baby



Sorry

I should show more grace for all I have
and not push hope into such a hard place to live
remember the vision and the light we share
kindness and the strength to forgive
myself in the shadow of angels
myself for all this wasted play
what I really meant to do for you was come clean
what I really meant to say

I'm sorry
so sorry

It comes from staying out there way too long
then stumbling around into your room
overloaded and breaking down
these precious things that mean the world to you
I'm not hateful I'm just frustrated
I'm not evil I'm just naked dumb
into the water when I first waded
too many times, too many times I had to turn and run

any fool can get down on his knees and pray
but what are you going to do boy
when the lines are drawn down
and the connections are lost
because you can't find your way

for all the times I did not call you
and even more so for the times I did
channeling demons despite all progress
writing books that no one ever read
out of my body down in the darkness
out of my mind I cannot explain
for riding the fence on your witness
for living my life somewhere down there in between

I'm sorry
so sorry



Immigrant Song

When I first started falling
through the hole in the sky
man I was traveling like I'd never known
and it didn't really hit me until I hit the ground
that I was a long long way from home
then I was awakened by a tender kiss
a healing hand and a place to start
and all I kept thinking
was how am I going to get out of this
without breaking somebody's heart
and the world keep turning around

well I got pretty good at walking upright
learning to talk and going to school
I worked real hard for very little money
I worked even harder at breaking the rules
I saw some things that I shouldn't have seen
so hell I went back to see them again
I laughed until I cried
I cried because I missed you
and I felt nearly human now and then
and the world keep turning around

a lot of people talking
about the end of this earth
because some old indian chiseled a stone
have no fear children she'll be here
a long long time after we're gone
see I spent a lifetime searching the skies
to see if I could spot some sign from home
and one of these days when my work is done
I'll head on back there where I come from
and the world keep turning around
and the world keep turning around
around and around and around
yes she does



Cure

polly's daddy was a hard shell preacher
talk about a ball and chain
the angel's wings were torn beyond repair
see they pounded it in that she was born with sin
so she almost went insane
and that's a very very very heavy cross to bear

when they spoil something inside your soul
and you just can't get it back
something takes the place of something pure
then you find you stand beside yourself
burning from the inside out
won't you lay me on the rock and let me take the cure

she points at god with a lightning rod
oh pass that bottle around
roll the dice and joke in jesus' name
never made much sense but in her own defense
she said that god had gunned her down
oh but I know now that religion was to blame

when they spoil something inside your soul
and you just can't get it back
something takes the place of something pure
then you find yourself beside yourself
learning from the inside out
won't you lay me on the rock and let me take the cure

the fire hails no warning
and at the crossing there she flies
she's tossing and she 's turning
I will be there when she rises

the day came in like a silent friend
and took my tears away
I felt the light shining in my room
I was paralyzed so I closed my eyes
it took me to another place
and if I ever come back here it'll be too soon



Virgil's Blues

collar and point
clatter and burn
the meeting of tumbler and key
by the hinge and the pin
beginning again
with nary a guarantee
churning the earthen sea



Wounded Heart

I got more blue skies
than I got gray
I got more money
than bills to pay
I should be thankful
and grateful
but I'm not
I've got the will of a grumbler
and a wounded heart

I got an engine
that runs on extremes
I got leather gloves
and a slot machine
looks like I'm running fairly cool
but I'm not
I've got the will of a grumbler
and a wounded heart

I've got to cut all ties
I've got to cut all ties that bind
I've got to cut all ties
before I lose my head

I got more reason
to flip than fly
I got more reason
to live than die
I should be looking forward to the morning
but I'm not
I've got the will of a grumbler
and a wounded heart

I got a good place to hide
but I don't
I should just heal up inside
but I won't
I should be living it up
out in the parking lot
I've got the will of a grumbler
and a wounded heart



Plow Through The Mystic

I'm going staight to hell
and that's a well known fact
just ask any hard shell and you'll be told
I am measured by the color of my skin
and whether or not I can turn silver into gold

it's a long way over
it's a long way over now

left esperanza with a stone in my boot
my manifesto way in the lead
that I might make it out with most of my loot
at least a couple of things that I might need

oh my faith in tact
oh my faith in delivery
pulling my plow
pulling my plow through the mystic

I am turning around old friend
so let me make this clear
it's not this life or this old town that set me out
just some of the people
just some of the people
that live around here

there's plenty of dirt here on my hands as you can see
from draggin' this chain in a gunny sack
I like to believe in being free there to believe
that jesus died and he ain't coming back

not in the way you thought
not in the way that they taught you
not with the things you bought
not any way that you thought you knew

maybe I'm bound by my raising you say
maybe I'm just a willing fool
I got my flashlight and my shovel and my take
and I am stubborn
stubborn as a mule

pulling my plow
pulling my plow through the mystic



New Love Song

if you're ever tangled up
in the lines that you can't see
and the struggle makes it worse
and you're as tired as you can be
if the habit's hard to break
from all that time out on your own
and you blame yourself 
when somebody treats you wrong
you got to hold on to me
hold on  

always and forever love
now those are pretty words to say
but it's never good enough 
in this world we know today
I don't care if people see me
bring my feelings around for you
I spent a long time out there running
and from the first light there I knew
you got to hold on to me
hold on

I remember what you told me
about resistance and the plan
so I kept it in my dreamtime 
and I wrote it in the sand  

now I won't ask you to save me
and you don't need me to be strong
there's a comfort in knowing for now 
where we belong

you got to hold on to me
hold on



Waiting

well I don't suppose that any of my raving ever did any good
and I'm learning now a quiet answer turns the wrath away
like you said it would
and finally I'm out of the red and into the blue
waiting here until they clear the road ahead
so I can move on through

across the delta plains it was freezing rain
east and west all four lanes were down
so I got out and walked a little while
up between the cars about a quarter mile
and took a look around
there were families and refugees wondering too
waiting here until they clear the road ahead
so I can move on through

day fell to night until the world renown
thousand thoughts came tumbling down again
how it seems to be now it's all a blur
what we know and who we were back then
we were vagabonds and all those gypsy songs we knew
waiting here until they clear the road ahead
so I can move on through



What I Would Not Do

In the very beginning
with no direction known
the end of days seemed to drag on and on and on
they lost me to wonder
they lost me to lust
to life on this earth for now
and someone I could trust

what I would not do
what I would not do
to keep a line tied
to keep a line tied
into you

I used to worry
about nothing at all
every thought shot through me like a cannon ball
then the rain she let up
sunny came in
my louisville slugger
hello sweet old friend

I'll take the hammer
swing it around
I would turn my back on the whole damned town
for the mist of your spirit
I hope to cross
when the galaxy burns out
and the world gets lost



Making The Day

say good morning
the new world is born
the penny falls
and you miss your turn
you say you're not lucky
well how do you know?
you're still footing the wheel ain't you?
still letting it roll

and it's alright mama
we're just making the day
yes it's alright it's alright now
we're just making the day

it tiresome trading on
the same old thoughts
they cut the highways in
so we can't get lost
so we cast our line out there
until the light turns green
just to sit right through it
trying to save this thing

and it's alright mama
we're just making the day
well it's alright yes it's alright now
we're just making the day

sweet as candy
we let it go around
the speed of light and sound
breaks down in a word
hummingbird

sugar water
in the evening sun
there's nothing lost out there
on my kingdom come
there's nothing broken
that we can't repair
don't want to get tied up
in these rules down here

and it's alright mama
we're just making the day
don't worry about it little children roll on
we're just making the day



Happiness

I met a girl in california
said she'd do anything to please me
I didn't need to realize it
hey it's just nice to be noticed

I read a book on existentials
I'm just a drop in the bucket
that's where I found a hundred dollars
hell I'd forgotten where I'd stuck it

I just came across some happiness
so I'm throwing it all around man
I don't know how long it's going to last
so you better take it while you still can

I can't wait for the reason
to get back up to kentucky
just means we're running out of sorghum
I've got to drive out to the country



Run

this was supposed to be so easy
but the blood seemed to be cursed
we were always just a stones throw away
from everything we ever wanted
daddy's mantra just got caught
in my head children
one of these days

child run to the sea
head first as though your head's on fire
jump in and redefine your time
and hold on hold on
crushing every fear
let your love lead you on
let your love lead you on and run
run child run
well I put on my heavy coat
and I walked out to the road
and I waited such long long time
with no malice in my heart
I wish you well and now
I call upon my beloved
in the dark so devine

child run
to the sea
head first as though your head's on fire
jump in and redefine the line
and hold on hold on
crushing every fear
let your love lead you on
let your love lead you on and run
run child run
you're going to find out just how heavy happiness can be
less you try now to tote it around in a box made out of lead like me
if you never ever hear a single word I say
hear me now
hear me now



Ravanna

I was born down by the missouri
where the copperheads and the catfish play
just up the hill there out in jackson county
they brought me home in a chevrolet

I always wanted to be just like my daddy
he wrapped me up there in the traveler's joy
I spend a great deal of my life out on the highway
and there's several devils there that I must employ

I'm a long way from Ravanna
where as a child I used to roam
along the line there where the wild blackberry grow
I'm not sad to think about it
those old memories just make me strong
and they shine a mighty light wherever I go

My mama raised me on a switch and some cornbread
a kiss on my face when I lay down to dream
she taught me how to hear the world while it's turning
it's been too long since I heard her sing

Lord knows I try to keep my spirits in the velvet but it's hard
I will take what I inherit friend and that should be enough
that should be enough

now I don't believe that I was born a sinner
but I've been working hard to catch up there just the same
Lord lord lord good god almighty I am only human
isn't that a burden and ain't that a shame?

 

All songs written by Jeff Black
Published by Lotos Nile Music BMI
except "Cure" written by Jeff Black
Published by Jeff Black Music BMI/ Coburn Music BMI