malleus&incus

Who is Jon Black?

Posted in Acoustic Guitar, Folk, Indie by jurbanik on September 1, 2010

Late last night, malleus&incus received a pingback from another blog: apparently we were mentioned in episode 22 of the Up From the Ground podcast. Embarrassingly enough, it was my earlier post about a surprising Ke$ha demo. Turns out the guys running the podcast were as surprised as I was to hear how (half) decent Ke$ha’s voice is capable of being. However – as I looked around the website, it became immediately apparent that the website wasn’t just for the podcast. Turns out that ‘Up From the Ground’ is the podcast of Jon Black, and is just one of the many features on his blog/website, Who is John Black.

The question of the hour seems to be ‘Who is Jon Black?’ Turns out he is a singer-songwriter based out of Alabama. Story has it that Jon started his music career after the fire alarm went off at his software corporation and he realized how much corporate America wasn’t for him. Whatever the deal is, I’m glad he made the decision to focus his life on music. Though I was too out of it to give him a good listen last night, I’ve revisited him over the past couple of hours and I like what I hear. He has a voice that could fit in an indie pop band as well as indie folk. It is one of those rather marketable voices – it reminds me of Wilco sometimes, Damien Rice others, and even has a hint of City and Colour in it.

As far as the instrumentals and lyrics go, he’s got a pretty diverse blend of stuff. His solo stuff is typical (but well written) indie folk. When with his band (The Winter Hearts), things get a little more diverse –  sometimes they’ve got a bit of a country twist (I would say twang, but I wouldn’t describe Jon’s vocals as twangy), and sometimes they launch into ballads assisted by piano and some nice bubbly or flowing synths. Very very accessible stuff – I’m surprised he hasn’t gotten more recognition yet.

Drove To Knoxville// You’re Welcome (Free Sampler)

I really like the build in the intro of this song – quick and clean, the instruments come in one at a time, and then Jon’s voice soars over all of them. His backup singer makes a great contribution that gives some good body to the song. While the lyrics aren’t groundbreaking, there are some clever lines. All in all, the song almost makes me want autumn to come a little sooner. The one thing that bothers me about the track is how abruptly it ends… the final line seems to be begging for a different melodic structure.  But truth be told, it continues on the next track – it’s not something that I’d expect on a sampler, but I guess its alright.

Gravity (Don’t Let Me Go)// Dining Room Sessions Vol. 1

I don’t know what it is about this track, but it stands out. I haven’t been listening to Jon long enough to call it a favorite, but I could certainly see it getting there. I think it might be the driving guitar riff in the solo version, or the way Jon’s voice swells and recedes. It has me tapping my feet even this minute. To be honest, the full band version sounds a little crowded and noisy – the drums and the guitar aren’t clean-cut, and they way the piano is layered with the guitar isn’t perfect. That said, I’m glad he released the acoustic version – I’d be missing a great song otherwise.

Either way, Jon has a lot of promise. I can see it getting to the point where people are no longer asking ‘Who is Jon Black?’ in the not too distant future. If you like what you’ve heard, be sure to check out his download site powered by bandcamp. He’s got some free stuff there, but while you’re at it, you should probably pony up a few bucks and grab some of the paid stuff.

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