Cletus Black | Bloodlines to the Heart (Little Fish)

cd_cletusNot far off, but not quite there yet, a look at another for Cave and Cohency






Honkytonk, doo-wop singers, and middling lyrics do not a Nick Cave-Leonard Cohen hybrid make. However, if someone were going to come close, it would be a safe bet that Cletus black could be that man. Coming back to Cleveland's music scene after a twelve-year hiatus, Black, joined by Kevin McCarthy (guitar), Jimmy Clark (drums), Greg Hurd (keyboards), and Mark Arila (bass) released a steady progression of albums beginning with Shades of Black (1996), Back It Up (1998), Cletus Black (1999), Black Ice (2001), Not Too Blues (2002), Bloodlines of the Heart (2004), and In theShadow (2006).

While not as lyrically strong as Cohen or Cave, the strength of Black's performance in Bloodlines to the Heart comes from the bluesy grit the man conjures up in songs like "Dead on Arrival," "Cocaine Trail," and "Cold Blooded Love." Particularly eerie is the song "Revenge," which has a startlingly Cave-like sound, complete with trite lines like, "Revenge is a dish best served cold," which are somehow salvaged by others like, "Bide my time to see you buckle and fall to your knees." One can easily imagine a swagger to the delivery of this song and despite its simplicity, there's something remarkably satisfying about a listen to the track.

As expected, an album like this can only finish with a song as poignant and deceptively uplifting as "Sweet Revenge," which has a startlingly light energy to it. Catchy, it culminates with some thoughts on heartbreak and the line, "Losing you was my sweet, sweet revenge." The music certainly has the sound listeners would expect from veterans of the Cleveland music scene, rich, traveled, and confident.

Packaging is pretty much what listeners would expect from an album like this: a moody shadowed photograph of Black with the album title in a clean white and red lettering across the lower right corner. The back cover is pretty much the same photograph in grayscale with the basic track listing. Liners contain more thoughtful images of Black along with a spread of a fishnet-stockinged woman whose heels are propped up on a table next to a beer bottle, an image that works thematically with the album, and juxtaposes Black's tired expression on the CD.

Judging by the energy Black musters in this album, it's a good bet he and the band would be a pleasant act to see live. As far as a general listen, however, it simply doesn't pack the gut-punch listeners might expect if they think they're going to hear another Cave or Cohen. He may get there, however, and one shouldn't be too surprised when he does. He's certainly not far off. B | James Nokes

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