Jamie Block – Whitecaps on the Hudson (2013)

The title track, and other key moments like “Sam Patch” and “My Head” here, blend the brutal, hard-won spoken-word honesty of Lou Reed with a rootsy, rattling cadence. But this is more than an Americana take on the Velvet Underground.

“Black Eyed Susan” — and this maybe as far away as you can get from Reed’s grimy urban tales — opens things with a welcoming, homey narrative about the unfettered joy found in simple things. Jamie Block may choose, more often than most, to speak his thoughts rather than sing them, but that doesn’t mean he can’t handle the “singer” part of singer-songwriter.

In fact, moments like the Wilco-inflected “I’ll Keep It With Mine” display a vocalist capable of subtle, deeply emotional complexity.

Elsewhere, Block blends the twilit portent of “Kate,” about a love long gone, with a hard-bitten, horn-driven riff on “B.A. Man.” “Somebody Beat the Whiz,” with its marching-band rhythm (and another mysterious spoken-word lyric), works in brilliant contrast to the dusky textures found in the Daniel Lanois-esque instrumental “Can’t Sleep.”

“Show You Mine” has a Replacements-style roughness, even as he returns to the half-sung, half-said format on “1993.” Then “Far Away” returns Whitecaps on the Hudson to the comfy domesticity of “Black Eyed Susan.”

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has also explored music for publications like USA Today, Gannett News Service, All About Jazz and Popdose for nearly 30 years. Honored as newspaper columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section that was named Top 10 in the nation by the AP in 2006. Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.