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Album Review: The Simple Truth by Jeff Austin

Jeff Austin
Album Review: The Simple Truth by Jeff Austin

By Brian Rock

Yonder Mountain String Band mandolinist, Jeff Austin steps out on his own with the release of his debut album, The Simple Truth. From the album’s first notes on “What the Night Brings,” Jeff makes it clear that this is not just YMSB.2. With a spritely electric guitar lead-in reminiscent of Born in the USA era Springsteen, Austin sings, “not sure how I got here, but I got here anyhow.” After fifteen years with the same band, that observation must ring especially true for him now.

Trying to create a new musical identity for himself, he ventures beyond the progressive bluegrass of his former band (although there’s plenty of that influence here, most notably on the aptly titled, “Fiddling Around,”) to incorporate some pop, rock, country and even funk influences.

Although his voice lacks the throaty power of the aforementioned Springsteen, it has a vulnerability and emotional depth that he puts to good use on ballads like, “Scrapbook Pages,” “Falling Stars,” and the tender, “Over and Over.” Contemplating, but not quite comprehending, the reasons for a failed relationship, Austin sings, “it would be a lie to say I didn’t try… over and over again.”

But Austin really hits his stride when he funks it up on songs like, “15 Steps,” “Shake Me Up,” and “The Simple Truth.” Successfully combining his bluegrass roots with some funk rhythms, Austin forges a surprising, yet satisfying Bill Monroe/James Brown mash up. With banjos and a horn section, these songs recall the early Lowell George days of Little Feat. To paraphrase a line from the title track, “I would not, could not, believe it if I heard it with my own ears.” But having heard it, the simple truth is that “The Simple Truth” is fine album and a propitious start to a new solo career for Jeff Austin.

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