At first glance, Eugene Ripper's new CD The Ballad of Black's only saving grace seems to be Billy Ficca, drummer of legendary New York band Television, appearing on several tracks. But, Ficca is not the star here, as that distinction is reserved for Eugene Ripper himself who has managed, against all odds, to create a highly enjoyable album. Musically, the album doesn't stray too far from the folk-punk label he seems to promote. The songs are simply hushed affairs, rarely using any unnecessary instruments. It allows Ripper's gracefully flawed voice and clever wit to take centre stage. Think local artist Wil with a better knack at turning a phrase, more keyboards and maybe even higher energy.
Perhaps the album's greatest blessing, as well as curse, is that energy. Listening to Ripper give it his all is certainly a treat but the album falls under the half-hour mark which is ultimately disappointing. Still, The Ballad of Black, short as it is, showcases a Canadian singer-songwriter on the rise who is equally comfortable singing about Van Gogh and shooting Cole Porter as he is delivering devilishly clever lines such as "Hot talking rock pops and long legged women/Cowboy junkies and a blue rodeo."