Three years isn't an unusually long time for fans to hold their breath between albums by a favorite artist, but for members of the cult of Greg Dulli, it's felt a lot longer than that. Never mind that the former Afghan Whigs frontman's 2000 release, Twilight as Played by the Twilight Singers, was a thing of sexy, atmospheric beauty: To people who'd fallen in love with Dulli's heart-in-his-mouth take on cabaret rock, the album felt like Dulli-lite, softening the rough edges that made him priceless.
Though it was released after the Whigs' breakup, at the time of its recording Twilight was still a side project for Dulli; follow-up Blackberry Belle, on the other hand, commanded his full attention. Stylistically, the record picks up where final Whigs album 1965 left off, drenching Dulli's fire-breathing vocals, swaggering guitars, and honeyed piano hooks in New Orleans-style jazz touches. But the real thrill is just having Dulli back in form: No other contemporary rock star can claim his combination of raw intelligence, raw sexuality, and raw emotion -- and in concert, delivered with panache, his songs have the power to save and destroy you at once.