There are some artists who are able to reach a happy medium in their work, a midpoint where their influences converge in a finely knotted web of sound. And when it comes to thoroughly exploring the various cracks and crevasses of your influences, musician Jesse Black seems to know his way among the shadows better than most. With a cleanly echoing guitar tone and a voice that reaches deep into your heart, he delivers a concise and powerful release of emotion and experience with just a few plucked notes and an accompanying percussive shuffle.
But there’s also a wider breadth of sound, a brew of psychedelic patterns and bluesy tonality, which provides the connective tissue for a larger, more elaborate musical perspective. So though it would be easy to label him as a blues guitarist, or simply a guitarist, his work stretches out onto a wider rhythmic landscape, one that easily handles the numerous influences that race through his music. He recently founded Muddy Mellow Records and will use it to promote both his own work and that of his many collaborators, as well as artists who happen to catch his attention.
On his latest project, called “B-Sides,” Black rambles through a collection of songs that highlights his affinity for spacious guitar lines and understated arrangements. Drawing on inspirations such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bo Diddley and Robert Johnson, these tracks shuffle along, casually but with purpose, in their pursuit of something that lies just over the next rise. Whether it’s escape from bad times, hesitant love or some unnameable darkness, he imbues these narratives with a sense of longing and emotional necessity.
Opening track “Voicemail” spreads out a luxuriant guitar riff that seeps into every corner of the song, revealing longing and a need for companionship that never seems to find resolution. “Dreams” and “Sunshine” both exhibit a definite jazz influence while still maintaining a distinctive bucolic identity, an earthy reverberation that wells up from somewhere in the deepest parts of his heart. The collection is a tribute to how much personal ground can be excavated and explored with a subtle touch and a full command of minimalist production techniques. Languid without losing its direction, “B-Sides” is a welcome embrace from a musician reveling in the comfort of his own considerable abilities.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.