Front and center are Cliff Eberhardt's expressive voice and his effective string work on guitar and dobro, making this the first real folk-sounding album this singer/songwriter had ever made. Eberhardt had backed away somewhat from his romantic obsessions on his previous album, Mona Lisa Café, but without replacing them effectively with other subjects. On 12 Songs of Good and Evil, he expanded those obsessions from merely interpersonal love relationships to general behavior. The title didn't imply that there were songs about good and songs about evil; rather, Eberhardt made clear that the line between the two was very thin and that most of his characters, the singer very much included, managed some of both. In the album's most striking song, "Joey's Arms," he marveled at the emotional attachment an addict could show toward his drug, and even contrasted it with a reflection on his own romantic travails that revealed surprisingly confessional insight: "I loved but I was unfaithful/I loved but I never stayed/But Joey knows about commitment/He loves the needle in the vein." If the album had a fault, it was that it was so downbeat. Only "Someone Like You," which sounded like a lost '60s pop/rock song, really broke the mood. But the disc showcased some of Eberhardt's strongest performing talents, and it demonstrated that he was finding new avenues for his songwriting.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann