Barrett Black releases Silence is Golden | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Barrett Black releases Silence is Golden

Ask anyone in the music scene about Barrett Black, and you'll get an acerbic answer. He's headstrong, arrogant, opinionated and generally too much to take in one sitting, some will comment. But Black doesn't care -- he's much too busy being creative, as a musician, painter and writer.

His latest artistic onslaught includes the release of a new CD, Silence Is Golden, which will premiere next Fri., Nov. 9, at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern among a lineup with Julie Sokolow, Laura Totten (who helped produce some of the album) and Lohio. Except for a guest vocalist on one song, all of the instrumentation (mainly cello and guitar) and vocals on Silence were performed by Black. "Some of the tracks are for movies," he explains, "like 'Stand Beside Me Love,' which was in An Independent Portrait [a documentary on film director Robert Young], by Jose Munian. Other songs were meant for my book, Satirical Tragedies."

Black's book is a series of epic poems he wrote while working as a gallery attendant at the Warhol Museum; he debuted excerpts at an Aug. 3 performance in the museum's theater. "I got really into each painting that I was staring at for hours on end -- for example, the oxidation one where the artist peed on the canvas, or the Silver Jumping Man, [which inspired me] to write about a 13-year-old girl who wanted to kill herself."

Before you get the idea that Black's outlook is exclusively dour, he's also recently formed a new "pop-art" band, Hail and Farewell. "It's just surface, plastic music for both hipsters and homeboys," he says. "Warhol's influence has been coming out in my paintings, and the idea of pop-art is so hilarious that I thought it needed to come out in the music."

And Silence Is Golden does veer across the musical map. Much of it is serious -- "Boys Out of Country" and "I Was Wrong" are both about the consequences of the Iraq war, while "Salvation for the Blind" references slavery and oppression by recording clanking chains. "Daydream in Gaza" is a spoken-word head trip in which Black places himself in the body of a suicide bomber. "The point is that nobody's right," he explains, "and if there's any religion that tells you to kill yourself or somebody else, it never will be right."

Silence concludes with "Watching You Watching Me He Said She Said." Produced with Soma Mestizo's Soy Sos, it's strummy pop with a hip-hop shuffle and neo-soul chorus that could cross over between fans of Sugar Ray, The Fugees and Alicia Keys. "I wanted to start kind of tragic and end mellow," says Black, "not exactly happy, but along the lines of beauty."

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