The Soul of John Black: “Black John”


I remember sitting in a college English class one day and reading the work of some poet whose name I have long forgotten, whose poems were written in such a casual, tossed-off fashion, my fellow English majors and I immediately scoffed at the poor craftsmanship, certain that such simplistic, rough-draft poetry was written in one sitting, receiving no forethought or revisions. Then, our professor led us through an explication, and our scoffing was quickly silenced; beneath the poems’ seemingly lackadaisical surface, we found meticulously considered internal rhymes, a sharp cadence, an interplay of allusions and images that made it clear that this poet was only pretending not to give a crap; underneath the tossed-off veneer, there was careful craft and real, writerly skill. Lesson learned: Making something seem effortless often requires a great deal of effort.

John Bigham makes music that sounds deceptively easy and simple, when in fact it’s anything but; like so many great poets and songwriters, he’s mastered the illusion of making careful, deliberate work sound as natural as breathing. Bigham has been refining his craft for years, first as a sideman for Miles Davis—could there possibly be a better teacher?—and now as the ringleader of The Soul of John Black. And he’s brought his considerable gifts of showmanship and musical vigor to Black John, a seriously fun and ceaselessly funky triumph of sound, song and style.

Continue reading at Stereo Subversion.


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