Jeff Austin

The Simple Truth

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Stepping away from the Yonder Mountain String Band -- he left his longtime group in 2014 following a reevaluation of priorities after the birth of his child -- Jeff Austin also expands his horizons on his first solo album, Simple Truth. Bluegrass can still be heard, usually in the form of Austin's nimble mandolin (and, no surprise, "Fiddling Around" is pretty much a straight-up bluegrass tune), but Simple Truth is very much an intimate singer/songwriter album, the work of a musician taking stock of where he's been and where he might be going. He'll find time for a little bit of fun -- "15 Steps" and "Shake Me Up" are nearly funky -- and he's free enough to get a little strange on "Gatling Gun," a jam so intricate it flirts with prog, indications that although he's growing up he's not leaving an impish sense of humor in the past. Nevertheless, what resonates on Simple Truth are the quieter, sweeter moments, such as the wistful ballads "Scrapbook Pages" and "Falling Stars" and even the livelier country-rocker "What the Night Brings" that kicks off the whole affair. These are the songs that signal where Austin is likely headed in this new stage of his career.

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