Joshua James - The Sun Is Always Brighter
Don't leave it to a guy like me to let you know what's in and what's out and why in today's music scene. I tend to stick to what I like and, if that stuff is making waves, to then judge the impact and actually care about what people are saying. Through this job, however, I've come to love more than ever the surprise (pleasant or otherwise) in hearing new things that new people are claiming to be the new big ones. Joshua James is making some waves, but he's riding those already churned up. His music is strictly alt-country, bareboned and free of the melodrama and emo tendencies some bands of this ilk cling to. But only so much, and in the end it's hard to say whether or not the record belongs in any of our collections.
To be sure, each song is quite like the last, only the stories and the tempos seem to change as Joshua and his band roll through easy to digest, soft, breezy and personal Nashville-ready numbers. For a man who's seen as being indie in his musical nature, his finger is firm on the pulse of what's hot today. His voice is the most enjoyable part of the entire affair, bringing to mind a more lively Paul Simon or a less disgruntled and strangled Connor Oberst. The songs feature flourishes of mandolin, steel, organ and piano at proper moments, hitting all the right notes but doing so rather flatly in the process. When the songs focus more on James' story-telling is when they're most effective; "FM Radio", "Lord, Devil & Him" and "Tell My Pa" stand out on such merits. The rest just sorta blends together in an admittedly easy but ultimately too easy fashion, going down like a glass of lukewarm lemonade on a blistering hot day.
I'm really not the guy you want reviewing someone like Joshua James. When it comes right down to it, all the honesty, integrity, skill and will you can muster doesn't save such standard music from letting me down. It's altogether a good album and one fans of the country-minded singer/songwriters popular nowadays should most certainly own. For the rest of us, however, we might long for Dylan or Cash to get a feel of how music of this nature was originally done, and done with much more honesty, integrity, skill and will.
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