The dark crunch of strings rips through the speakers as a warning to all passersby. This is no ordinary musician. Reaching beyond the boundaries of genre, delving into theatrical representations of hot and cold, Chris Black debuts his solo album, a collection of more throb than beat, instruments churning and bleeding all over this canvas. Opener "Pass Away" rises up from Dante's Inferno, the former Gadjo Bango and Golden Arm Trio bassist as cynical as he is inventive. The titular track coerces Tom Waits through a carnival of manic instrumentation, and from the Fiddler on the Roof gypsy sing-along of "All Along the Way" to the soft ballet of "Sleep," Black masters and releases demons, his passion lingering. When jazz beats muster a David Lynch tone in "Hi-Test" and "Carry It Away," the sluggish force of "Bottom Drawer" and long-winded closer "Come Home With Me" slink away in one thrust of Black's bow. Where his talent truly shines is on the nine-minute ballad "You Were the One." Neither excited nor catchy, the track drunkenly seduces with plucked strings and swaying rhythm. A musician who carries quietly and without gimmick is one for the books. Too bad we lost him to San Francisco.
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