Thinkers & Fools is the second album from burgeoning British songwriting talent Darren Black. With a style that boasts firmly established folk roots, Black chooses his collaborators carefully to bolster this inclination. Joining Black here is a formidable cast of accomplished musicians that includes veteran fiddle maverick Dave Swarbrick, former Uiscedwr member Kevin Dempsey on guitar, and one-time Albion Band member Joe Broughton on fiddle, mandolin, bass and percussion. As if that weren’t enough, Broughton also takes the production credits here.
There are some utterly delectable string arrangements that add a real edge of class to the album. On “World Without Cars” Black’s lightly picked guitar is joined by Paloma Trigas’ violin, Helen Lancaster’s viola and Emma Capp’s resonant cello, evoking that distinctly rustic English sound that graced Nick Drake’s work. Lyrically, Black delivers another of his distinguishing commentaries on the modern world, espousing an introspective approach without resorting to anger: “Breathing air that bristles life, spirits roaming free / heavy smog that choked this town, now is history.”
The current political hot potato of food-miles also is subjected to Black’s adept dissection on “Selling Honey To The Bees,” where Black addresses the subject with an eloquence that will hold far more appeal than the rhetoric of bellicose public figures: “Ask yourself do you need a choice of 12 / or will one suffice / at a fair and honest price?” The song from which the album gets its title, “Money,” has dark, theatrical nuances, as Black bemoans the evils of a profit-obsessed world: “With guns for the nations who hold the trump cards / our oil-fed addiction’s the drip in their arm.”
Everything about Thinkers & Fools is likeable. Black’s lyrics are thought provoking and reflective; the instrumental arrangements are accomplished but never intrusive. One gets the feeling that this represents the early days in a career that has the potential to give rise to an impressive and influential body of work.
(Darren Black, 2008)