Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
The fact that Josh T. Pearson has not actually managed to put out an album since The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads (ten years ago with his ill-fated band Lift to Experience) is so monumentally ridiculous that I personally had forgotten this was the case. As Last of the Country Gentlemen played on, my first thought was that it was much more pared down than his previous output, before I realised my mistake. His oeuvre has been impressed upon my mind so heavily from merely watching his live shows that I had conjured a mirage album in my mind. This is the potential Pearson has - to jab a sweaty old crucifix into your skull and leave it there to take root permanently.
The majority of the album is led by gently-picked country guitars and nearly-whispered lyrics of love and loss. Gone are the grisly screams and the dusty old Vox amp reaching critical mass that we've come to love. It's chillingly fragile throughout, and a more heartbreaking listen you won't find this year. On opener 'Thou Art Loosed', Josh slides out of the darkness cooing "Don't cry for me baby, I'll learn to live without you", a sentiment that would sound trite coming from anything other than Josh's impressively hairy lips. Few artists since Roy Orbison can emote a simple idea so effectively, and while he may look like a member of ZZ Top, he has the voice of an angel.
Speaking of which, as we have come to expect from Pearson, Last of the Country Gentlemen is steeped in religious imagery. Damnation and salvation, heaven and hell, and God and the Devil do battle in his heart over the course of the seven tracks. Josh's soul has experienced more in the last ten years than most will in a lifetime, and it's laid bare for us all to see. Guys like him walk through hell so that we don't have to.
Josh is now a label mate of Nick Cave, The Dirty Three and Richard Hawley, and a more suitable label than Mute I can't imagine. These are artists with a similar knack for evoking a powerful sadness without ever being sappy, and communicating humour without being evasive. Sometimes, when PR companies are endlessly force-feeding you Jessie J, and Beady Eye are claiming to be the torch-carriers of modern rock, it's hard not to believe that meaningful music is dead. But occasionally an artist pops up with talent so rich, a soul so deep and balls so big, it tips the balance and the world feels level again. Thank God for Josh T. Pearson.
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