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Jackie Greene: Back to Birth *

Album Notes

It's been five long years since singer/songwriter Jackie Greene released a solo record. In the interim, he's been active, playing guitar on the Black Crowes' last tour and working with Phil Lesh & Friends. He also co-leads Trigger Hippy with Joan Osborne and plays in WRG with Bob Weir and Chris Robinson. Back to Birth is Greene's debut for Yep Roc; it was produced by old friend and collaborator Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, who helmed the sessions for American Myth. While the title suggests a return of sorts, this certainly is not a return to Greene's raw acoustic beginnings, but it does feel more like an extension of American Myth than it does Til the Light Comes. It's leaner, for one thing. It feels like a band record because you can hear them playing around the singer, not behind him. "Silver Lining," with its soulful shuffle, wailing harmonica, pedal steel, and four-part harmony, is a tight midtempo rocker. "Now I Can See for Miles" combines a jangly Rickenbacker 12-string with a tough hook and dreamy psychedelic pop. "Light Up Your Window" uses mandolin, organ, and electric 12-string to create rootsy, limpid pop. The meld of Americana and soul in "Trust Somebody" juxtaposes a fiddle against a piano and country-flavored guitar as Greene's vocals soar over the top. Passionate, committed, and wide open, it's his best vocal performance on the album. "Hallelujah" commences as a sparse soul-blues that gets elevated to joyous gospel -- the celebration is marked by a small choir and T-Bone Walker-style guitar break. While "The King Is Dead" is a straight-ahead rocker that recalls John Mellencamp at his best, "Where the Downhearted Go" is a bluesy, nocturnal Southern grit-and-groover. Back to Birth is a record for Greene fans more than anyone else. He's deeply focused on craft here; these tunes come from the marrow of a rambling songman's highs and lows, and they ring of the simple truth. ~ Thom Jurek


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