[Artist Spotlight]: Josh T. Pearson

‘Just a burnin’ rekindled truth and one single agonizin’ blinding white light’

When Lift to Experience quickly imploded, there was a definite sense of an empty space and unrealised potential left behind in their absence. Bassist Josh Browning retired. Drummer Andy Young formed Western Arms with Guy Garvey. And as for their enigmatic vocalist and guitarist Josh T. Pearson, apart from the odd tour bootleg or appearance on Bat For Lashes’ debut ‘Fur & Gold’, the man seemingly disappeared into the wilderness.

Though on the face of it Josh’s debut LP  ‘Last Of The Country Gentlemen’ seems effortless in its delivery, recorded in just two days at Berlin based studio Klangbild, when considered next to Josh’s ten year recording absence it is clear that the album is no immaculate conception. Retreating to the road that had been his home since a young boy in Texas, Josh has tirelessly toured and crafted each song meticulously with no stone left unturned. Exploring and revising every variable of his songs with a tenacious fervour that has afforded him the nickname of ”The Perfectionist’, Josh finally committed to recording once satisfied with the emotional responses his songs received from audiences. Clearly the emotions Josh was looking for were the ones that mirrored his own. Torn and splitting at the seams like a worn in jacket, this open wound of a record is the sound of a man licking and then salting his wounds to spite himself. The healing process may still be ongoing, but the overwhelming sense of catharsis in this record is undeniable.

In ‘Woman, When I’ve Raised Hell’ we have an epistle of frustration and self loathing in the vein of Nick Cave’s ‘Green Eyes’ that catches in the throat upon discovery. Accompanied by wistful acoustic guitar, a voice so tentative and so melancholic offers a song that stirs the deepest and most regretful part of you. Cave collaborator and Bad Seed Warren Ellis lends his bruised and mournful violin touch to the studio version, however to feature on the blog I have instead chosen a solo Faits Divers session that truly does Josh’s stark confessional justice. Though maintaining a reserved composure, every subtle inflection and note expressed exudes infinite openness to the point that it seems he will bleed out in his seat.

A parable to those who would rush on and leave errant details to ‘fix later’, it is clear that in some cases it is better to spend the time to get it right before opening your mouth. An album a mere two days in delivery, but ten years in the making, ‘The Last of The Country Gentlemen’ has been released to unanimous critical acclaim in Europe. It is clear that in the case of Josh T. Pearson that the words of Robert Frost hold true: ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— / I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’

‘The Last Of The Country Gentlemen’ is available in record stores now.

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[Artist Spotlight]: Sam Amidon

In a recent issue of Mojo magazine they distributed ‘Harvest Revisited’, a track by track re-recording of the 1972 Neil Young album ‘Harvest’, involving folk artists as diverse as Villagers, Phosphorescent and Chip Taylor. Upon reaching my favourite track on the album, ‘The Needle and the Damage Done’ , I heard a voice so light as if it would float away into the ether like a feather on the breeze. Compared to Neil Young’s trademark shaky vocals that gave the original a worn and broken earthiness, the almost Nick Drake-like vocals of this version coupled with the solo tremolo tinged guitar gave the song a sense of helpless transience and indifference. It breathed a new life into the observation of heroin addiction, as if this were the perspective of the junky in question who easily slips away out of existence. This was my first experience of  Sam Amidon.

Coming from a family heavily involved in folk music and resembling a young Pete Seeger when sporting a banjo, Sam Amidon seems to have been destined to become a folk musician and has been producing records for ten years now. Though not enjoying chart success he has toured endlessly throughout that period, solo and sharing a stage with Beth Orton, gathering a modest following who do appreciate his subtle brand of folk arrangements. And even though he is steeped in the folk traditions and authenticity of the canon of The Watersons, Mississippi John Hurt and English folk ballads, he still indulges in a bit of contemporary pop every now and then.

Like the aforementioned Nick Drake, Sam truly comes into his own when his wispy ballads are given centre stage. Ballads so haunting and delicate that it feels like to look at them too closely would cause them to crumble into dust and scatter. His arrangements are intimate and fragile affairs that when given a discerning ear seem to scream through their silence and subtlety, louder than a wall of feedback and hit their mark directly somewhere between the heart and soul.

‘Rain and Snow’ can be found on his recent album ‘I See the Sign’, available in record stores now.

And Away We Go: Warpaint

First of all, welcome to The Sun Also Rises: A music blog for my thoughts and musings on music old and new. To kick things off with a bang I’d like to write about what I found to be last year’s most exciting band: Warpaint

Okay. I’m going to come out and say it. There have arguably been no decent girl group rock bands. EVER. Sorry Courtney Love, I just don’t like Hole.

Seriously, try and think of one decent girl group rock band. One. Go on. Try it.

Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way saying that there have been no decent women in music. Quite the contrary, artists such as PJ Harvey, Nina Simone, Cat Power, Patti Smith etc. have produced some of the most fantastic pieces of music. But no matter how I try I cannot think of a single girl group that I have felt were worth listening to. For all the thousands of all male bands there appear to be no all female contenders. It just seems that women in music work best as solo artists where their visions can take free rein or as front women of mixed sex bands e.g. Chrissie Hyndes, Debbie Harry, Alison Mosshart.

Given my stated opinions on girl bands you can imagine my apprehension when giving Warpaint a listen after hearing about this rising girl band that would soon be touring the UK. And given my aforementioned apprehension you can imagine my surprise upon discovering that not only do Warpaint not suck, they create the most amazingly idiosyncratic music I’ve heard in the last year.

Occupying a far musical left field like Queens of the Stone Age, Warpaint’s music draws on influences and creates a unique music that shuns traditional song structure in favour of pure creative freedom. The notion of a song which has no clear verse, chorus or bridge that deviates periodically does sound disjointed and schizophrenic, but in the case of Warpaint’s music it seems so natural that I can only describe it as melodically unique.

Anchored by the weaving musical telepathy between childhood friends and guitarists Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman, the songs are given to fly with the independent spirits of Jenny Lee Lindberg’s pulsing hypnotic bass and Stella Mozgawa’s joyfully cascading drums. Emily has said, “We write from beginning to end in a linear fashion. We don’t say, Okay, here’s a verse, here’s a chorus, another verse… We usually start jamming on an idea, then it feels like it’s time to change, so we’ll write the next part, and then the third part might be completely different, and the fourth. We might never repeat any of them again, but it feels like it’s a natural progression from beginning to end. But also, Theresa and I have each brought complete songs in. There’s no formula, and that’s what’s kept it interesting.”

Such focus on artistic freedom was evident early on their 2008 debut EP “Exquisite Corpse” and on their full length album “The Fool”, released last year on Rough Trade, it is clear that their songwriting has blossomed in much the same manner as their creative philosophy suggests. The band has described the album as the older sister of “Exquisite Corpse” and this seems like a natural term to describe the progression between albums: Older, more sophisticated, but ultimately a different beast entirely.

Warpaint are not successful in spite of girl band mediocrity, but simply on terms all of their own. As Emily has stated, “Nobody in this band has to prove anything about being a woman in rock. You just have to let go of your ego, and really experiment”

Never a truer word.

“The Fool” is available in record stores now.

EDIT: I just remembered Shonen Knife. They’re decent