Frank Black

Honeycomb (Back Porch)

On his tenth solo album, Frank Black approaches Southern roots and soul not as a philanderer but as a lover. Which stands to reason: Since 1998's Frank Black & the Catholics, this head Pixie's leering weakness for genre-play has gradually given way to something more heartfelt. The rich, dewy arrangements of Honeycomb are stuffed with understated performances by such Muscle Shoals/Memphis soul legends as Steve Cropper and Dan Penn, not to mention Black's own taut guitar work -- but it's the songs themselves that carry the 14-track collection. Black's originals include "Selkie Bride," a cleverer, more ambivalent love song than Elvis Costello has penned in years; the '50s-ish ballad "Another Velvet Nightmare," co-written with Black's Boston homey Reid Paley; and "Go Find Your Saint," with an infectious, Pixies-like chorus, sans bluster. These elegantly sentimental tunes sit so comfortably next to wistful versions of a Doug Sahm classic and Penn's "Dark End of the Street," it's a wonder that this is the same guy once known for impenetrable tales of caribou and bohemian sex.

 
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