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By: Danielle Rode
It seems it’s a rare thing to find a musician that can capture the attention and emotion of an audience, but that’s exactly what the audience got from Jeff Black on Friday, June 26, 2015, when he performed for a welcoming crowd with Six String Presents at the Cary Theater. The Cary Theater is a cozy venue with about 175 seats, making it an intimate setting for a night of musical togetherness. David Sardinha, founder and promoter of Six String Presents, started the series at the Six String Café in Cary, where he first met Black over a decade ago. Since then, Sardinha has been bringing local and national talent to venues all over the Raleigh area, including Jeff Black; award-winning Folk singer, songwriter, and raconteur.
Black is a self-titled “troubadour,” a humble, yet self-assured poet with a lot to say and a beautiful way of saying it. Having been in the music industry for over thirty years, he’s no stranger to the big business of music production and publishing, but his performance Friday night reminded us of the beauty and simplicity of musical expression. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, and a harmonica, Black blew the crowd away as he laid out his life and memories before us with every song.
Black opened the show with a song from his latest album Folklore titled “Tom Domino,” a heartfelt tune about his good friend Tom’s gambling granddad. The audience was silent as he explained the passing of his dear friend Tom and why he wrote the song, saying “I’ve been throwing a thousand good thoughts out there for him,” inviting us to join him in the experience.
Black gives you the most honest form of music that he can; he has that rare, down-to-earth quality that makes you feel like you’ve known each other for years without even trying. Watching Black’s performance is like watching a reel of film from his memory play out before you, inviting you into the life he sees behind his eyes. He played several songs from Folklore including “Folklore,” “Rider Coming,” and “Sing Together,” as well as “Easy On Me” from his album Tin Lily. The lyrics of his songs weave together memories from the past as he tells the audience the story of his life, from his childhood in Missouri, his family, and his life in Nashville; every song is a new chapter, each verse is a word on the page.
He’s one of the few performers that can have a crowd laughing at the beginning of a story and silence the room by the end. Stepping away from his guitar and over to the piano he joked, “I’ll head over here for the daredevil part of the evening” as he began telling a story about his father. He told the audience how it was his father who bought him his first guitar, “he told me I was only just getting started…he handed me my entire life.” Slowly tapping on the keys he dedicated his next ballad “Sunday Best” to “the old banjo player, the old veteran, the old yellow dog democrat.”
Black mesmerized the crowd from start to finish from the emotional story of his childhood in “Ravanna” off of Plow Through The Mystic, to the soulful sounds of the harmonica in “That’s Just About Right,” written for Blackhawk. He had the audience enraptured by his candid sincerity and had us laughing all night at his jokes during and in between playing. The minute he picked up the banjo the audience started hollering and clapping, “is anybody in here wearing a pacemaker?” he joked, with a big smile across his face. It’s obvious that when he’s performing he’s genuinely enjoying every minute; he’s at home and he’s opened the front door to welcome you right in, like catching up with an old friend, instead of meeting a stranger for the first time.
Throughout the performance Black remained incredibly grateful to the staff of the theater, to Six String Presents, and especially the audience. He sent out his thanks and on behalf of his fellow musicians, multiple times saying, “if it weren’t for y’all we’d be hopping box cars and ridin’ round the country.” From the very first song he plays, Black makes sure you’re not strangers anymore and that by the end of the show you’re old friends. You could say it’s because of the intimacy of the theater but I have a feeling Jeff Black could make a stadium of people feel right at home.