Making a living as a songwriter in Nashville, Tennessee, is about as easy as being an Iceman in Anchorage, Alaska. Only talent, perseverance, and a certain amount of blind luck along the way make it possible for a songwriter to achieve any level of success. Jeff Black has written a #1 single for the band Blackhawk, as well tunes covered by Waylon Jennings, Sam Bush, and Lisa Brokop. His second solo release, B-Sides and Confessions Vol. I, represents Black's first release on Dualtone Music. His first, Birmingham Road, was released on Arista Records and featured contributions by Wilco, Iris Dement, and Geggy Tah. B-Sides and Confessions Vol. I is a much smaller, more personal album, with stripped down arrangements and a minimum of sidemen. The songs feel more informal, private, and less commercial. Black's cover of his own tune " Same Old River," originally popularized by Sam Bush, retains its anthem-like qualities while gaining an added degree of intimacy and poignancy.
Besides writing all the lyrics and music, Jeff Black plays most of the instruments on B-Sides and Confessions Vol. I. He handles acoustic guitar, piano, harmonica, banjo and all vocals. On most of the songs Byron House adds bass while Craig Wright contributes drums and percussion. On "Holy Roller" Michael Webb plays bass, while on "To Be With You" Jody Nardone plays piano and David Jacques plays bass. In keeping with the minimalist nature of the production, the packaging and graphics are all in black and white and the only photograph of Jeff Black is a moody, blurred close-up.
Engineered and produced by the legendary producer Billy Sherrill, who is usually associated with larger-budget and more grandiose projects, B-Sides and Confessions Vol. I manages to sound as fine as any of his major label efforts. B-Sides and Confessions Vol. I shows that all it takes to make a superb album are great songs performed in a straightforward manner by someone who believes in them. I'm looking forward to B-Sides and Confessions Vol. II.