Jeff Crosby – Jeff Crosby (2011)

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We became acquainted with the Idahoan rocker Jeff Crosby last spring not long after he unveiled his debut release, a very promising EP called Too Many Walls. But that was just an appetizer. On August 1st, Crosby’s full-course meal, simply entitled Jeff Crosby was served. And it delivers on the promise of that EP.

Sometimes the place where a person comes from influence his music and sometimes it doesn’t. I think growing up in the rural Rockies shaped Crosby’s music. No, this isn’t John Denver redux, but Crosby sees things as clear and uncluttered as the Montana skies, with music that’s straightforward, earnest and deep. As someone who came from tiny Donnelly, Idaho and ventured out into the world, Crosby soaked in the sights and sounds of the larger world through the filter of high country values.

Crosby’s social consciousness adds depth to his songs here as it did on his EP, and so maybe it’s to be expected that his album opens up with “Plowshares Eight” (Youtube below) referring to a group of anti-nuclear activists who went on trial thirty years ago for disrupting the manufacture of missile coneheads at the factory in Pennsylvania. Starting with the tension that unloads in the full chorded chorus, Crosby has figured out the puzzle of matching the words with the music. “Love Will Let You Know” brings his concerns to a more personal level (“it’s not what you have, it’s more what you have to give”). Other topics deal with watching someone grappling the death of a loved one from a distance (“I Didn’t Know”) and the offer of help to a suffering friend (“No Need For Excuses”). And of course, those time-honored love songs (“Hope She Understands”, “One Of A Kind”, “All The Love She Needs”).

But as I said, he marries these topics to the music like they were made for each other. The music, drawing from The Byrds, The Beatles, Crosby Stills and Nash, James Taylor and other icons of rock, folk and country rock, but he uses these influences to help sketch the outlines. The finish paintings are all his own. Again employing help from his Refugees backing band and a few other friends, Jeff Crosby crafted a record that sounds like ProTools wasn’t anywhere near it, and the resulting product is lean, timeless and simple. On some tunes, like “Anything I Could Do,” “Movin Too Fast” and “Anything I Could Do,” there’s little accompaniment outside of his acoustic, and though Crosby is more of singing tunesmith than an instrumental specialist, but the fine guitar finger picking on “Anything I Can Do” shows he can do just about anything.

Jeff Crosby is talented enough to expertly play a wide variety of music, but for the first album under his name, he settled on niche that’s not practiced as much these days: honest-to-goodness straight-up rock with passion, tunefulness and purpose.

Visit Jeff Crosby’s website.

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S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron
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