Album review: DARREN BLACK – Playing With The Truth

DARREN BLACK - Playing With The Truth

Independent [Release date 04.09.20]

Darren Black’s “Playing With The Truth” is essentially a singer/songwriter/poet’s guide through the uncharted waters of a post truth, post pandemic, post Brexit Britain.

Naturally, it moves forward into this landscape by looking back. The “band” – guitar, bass and piano, expanded occasionally by a lone flugerhorn or trumpet – lays down a sympathetic backdrop to singer/songwriter, Darren Black’s perceptive observations.

The song titles are an almost self explanatory chronicle of our times. On ‘Historical Amnesia’, Black decries the revisionism running rampant through our place in history, as politicians look to “whitewash the past”. And on ‘The Clown’, Black contrives vivid images, none of them flattering, putting identity beyond doubt…”you run down the clock, till it’s too late to stop”. No doubt about that one. Imaginatively, Black and band add a jazzy trumpet, giving the song an exotic smoky, downtown club atmosphere.

In fact, up front, one of the most striking aspects is the way his music quickly gets beyond its folky roots, in the same way that a Leonard Cohen or Yusuf/Cat Stevens transcend the genre. After a couple of tracks you realised you’ve tuned in, and it’s “just” Darren Black songs/music you’re hearing.

Opener, ‘Shadows Leave’ sets the scene. Acoustic guitar and piano together build and build as Blacks quivering, baritone croak contends with a world gone mad, eventually resolving to fight it out.

In common with several songs, ”Social Cemetary’ (a post pandemic world where everything we know about social interaction has been challenged, sometimes usurped.) possesses a crackling subliminal intensity, as if an electric current is running through it. ‘We Might Drown’ shares that intensity, condemning the internet for overwhelming us with a tsunami of questionable information. ‘Tiny Steps’ is the other side of the Covid coin, adopting a more optimistic tone, keeping faith with humanity and human nature.

So, no histrionics, none of your wide, swinging punches that miss more often than they land, just your short, telling jabs, delivered with precision and poise, with sharp metaphors drawing blood.

Refreshing. ***1/2

Review by Brian McGowan

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

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