On her sophomore solo release, Can’t Bring Me Down, Kristen Black proves she’s a musical chameleon, playing everything from hooky pop on lead track “The One” to Tedeschi Trucks Band-style funk-blues on “Fortunate One.”
“On With the Show” is a beautiful narrative ballad about Black’s twin boys as they come of age: “Eighteen years goes by so fast, people always say. Those words never rung so true until today. So go off and explore this world while you’ve go this chance. Just try and stay true to your heart and you’ll enjoy life’s dance. And know that you’ll carry my love everywhere you’ll go.”
“Love” finds Black getting funky again, but when she moves to track five, the album’s title track, she drives straight into a punk song. “You’re so Hip” moves back into some horn-driven blues.
“I just want to kiss you when I see you riding on your bike,” Black sings on “The Bicycle Song,” a charming country-pop ditty she wrote about her husband. “Your smile’s so big, you’re feeling light on your bike, on your bike. And I just want to hold you instead of flying through those passing lanes. Our speed should always be the same on our bikes, on our bikes.”
“Since We’re Here (For Dru)” is a tribute to her friend Dru Lynch, who succumbed to an illness last year. The rock song is deeply personal and highly emotional.
The album finishes with “Another Drink,” a sweetly somber ballad. Musically, the album is all over the place, but it fits together perfectly.
“It comes from all the different styles of music that I like, from punk to blues to rock to funk, and some country,” Black said during a recent interview.
While musically diverse, thematically the songs are tied together by one of life’s most universal ideas.
“Love is the theme throughout this record,” Black said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that life is pretty special and we need to appreciate every moment of every day. Take all the love you’re given and give all the love you can.”
The album made use of two of our finest local recording studios. Black started at Kip Stork’s Avalon Recording Studio in SLO but later finished at Steve Crimmel’s Painted Sky Studios in Cambria.
“Kip went on the road with the Aristocrats so I finished at Steve’s place. Both were appropriate for the songs I recorded there, and both were wonderful to work with in their own ways.”
The album also features a stellar cast of players, both local—like Kristian Ducharme (organ), Forrestt Williams (bass), Scott Liddi (saxophones), and Bob Liepman (cello)—and nationally and internationally known—including Paul Thorn band members Jeffrey Perkins (drums) and Bob Britt (lead guitars), plus Steve Miller Band bassist Kenny Lee Lewis, who played lead guitar on one track and mandolin on another.
“I was very fortunate. A couple of friends of mine, Rob and Lisa McCann, know Jeffrey Perkins, Paul Thorn’s drummer, and they put me in touch with him. I just asked him. I thought, ‘Why not?’ I was shocked when he agreed to come out from Nashville and play.”
That led to Bob Britt joining in as well as Bob’s wife, Etta, singing background vocals on some tracks.
“Bob’s played with everyone from Bob Dylan to Delbert McClinton to the Dixie Chicks,” Black added. “He’s not a slacker!”
She met Kenny Lee Lewis because their children attended junior high together. She says it was a “shot in the dark,” but she asked and he agreed.
“I got really lucky,” she said, adding that the local players were equally instrumental in making the album what it is.
“I had a vision for every song and I tried to find the right players for that vision,” Black said.
This Saturday, Aug. 20, Kristen Black will play an album release party at Tap It Brewing Company (6:30 p.m.; 21-and-older; $10 presale available at tapitbrewing.com or kristenblackmusic.com or $15 at the door).
She’ll be playing songs from her new album as well as old favorites like “Weirdo Magnet.” In fact, she’ll also be selling T-shirts that say either “weirdo” or “weirdo magnet.”
“That way you can decide if you’re a weirdo or a weirdo magnet,” she quipped.
Pick up a copy of her album for $10. Tee shirts are $20.
“I want to see people’s smiling faces and spread the love,” Black said.
David Lynch and Friends will open the show.