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Cletus Black 

Bloodlines to the Heart (www.cletusblack.com)

Cletus Black is one of the most distinctive singer-songwriters in the area and -- given his knack for lyrics -- one whose reach beyond the region is way overdue.

Bloodlines to the Heart builds on the strengths of Black's solid 2001 offering Black Ice, a disc abundant with hooks that established a variety of engaging moods and pictures. Black gets a lot of storytelling mileage out of the short, simple phrases from which he typically fashions his tunes. On Bloodlines, songs such as "Mr. Blues," "Cold Blooded Love," and especially "Dead on Arrival" all draw power from a less-is-more aesthetic. This set, while never dreary, is mostly dark; fittingly, a recurring Leonard Cohen influence is detectable on "We Are Hiding" and "Revenge." But for all the influences, Black is still his own man musically.

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