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Gus Black
Autumn Days (Cheap Lullaby)


Listening to Gus Black’s fourth album, Autumn Days,
it’s difficult not to get the sense that Black is spilling
his darkest secrets. Between his hushed tenor and
the hesitant quality of his melodies, the entire work
seems like the kind of late-night conversation that
winds up revealing more than you wanted to know. In
the first track, Black warns, “Don’t go tellin’ the whole
world / How you ache / For a sun so bright at night /
Don’t go tellin the whole world / How you break,” —
ironic lyrics for a man who is so clearly spilling his
guts on this particular record.

“This is more than just a breakup record,” Black
claimed in a recent press release. “It’s the twisted
torment of a failed relationship crashing into a new
Listening to Black as he keens through this album, his simplistic lyrics and instrumentals convey a more
authentic sense of heartbreak than the typical sad-bastard crooning found on the average lost-love album. There
is no polish on this album, and I mean that in the best possible way. Black is one of the few singer-songwriters
working today who has avoided the temptation of over-mixing that results in oh-so-many shallow radio hits.
Black has the spine to let his music speak for itself, and for the most part, it’s holding its own.

Autumn Days is not flawless. The standout worst song on the record, “Weekend Soldier,” sounds
like a rejected track off a Five For Fighting album. It’s obvious that Black was trying to make a point by contrasting
dark, sincere lyrics with a childish melody — maybe he’s trying to make some sort of statement about innocence
— but it just comes across as something that should have been erased from the master tapes. The same goes
for a bizarre rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” the state song of Louisiana, which comes as the bonus track at
the end of the album; turn off your stereo after catching “Autumn Days” if you don’t want the record to leave a sour
taste in your mouth.

On tracks like “Devil’s Spine,” Black attempted the same type of experiment with much more successful results.
Despite its simplicity, “Devil’s Spine” manages to pair an upbeat melody with wrenching lyrics. Black has
suggested that the song is the centerpiece of the album for him, saying, “It was a catharsis. That song was one
of those songs that arrives complete. The vocals and guitar were improvised on the spot.”

Black has also found great success with some of his more ambitious, noisier tracks. Despite the quiet, natural
tone of the majority of the album, Black mixes in energetic, rock-inspired tracks like “Long Beach (It’s A Miracle),”
“Certain Kind of Light,” and “Rollercoaster,” with ease. On his quieter tracks, Black has also included unexpected
string instruments to expand his sound, and except for occasional and unfortunate moments of early-90’s style
keyboards, the variety makes the record much more cohesive.

With cameos by artists like Dave Palmer (Air, Fiona Apple, Joe Henry), David Henry (Yo La Tengo, Josh Rouse),
Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek, and Sarabeth Tucek (Smog, The Brian Jonestown Massacre), this is a solid
album worth checking out.
Autumn Days is a record that will make you feel inherently human – something most
people need these days. Black has a knack for the kind of honesty that people crave, and that comes across in
almost all of his songs.

For more information about Gus Black, check out or Autumn
is scheduled for release in the U.S. on March 21.
E-mail Rachel Hodges at