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Monday, 21 November 2011

Gigs - Josh T. Pearson - Royal Northern College of Music

Star rating – 6/10

I always wonder what it must feel like to have written confessional songs about a raw and painful relationship breakup, and then to have to relive them again every time you perform them live. And there is no better, more poignant example of such a collection of songs than those on ‘Last of the Country Gentlemen’, the brilliant and haunting solo CD from Josh T. Pearson.

It is an extraordinary album, full of searing pain and emotion – the diary of the end of his ill-fated marriage. And I was expecting a sullen, introverted live performance from the extremely fully bearded Texan singer. But he spent more time telling (bad) jokes and bantering with the audience than he actually sang, which somehow felt very odd. The juxtaposition of the piercingly sad songs, and the flippant bad jokes was an unsettling one. When he sang the seven, admittedly longer than average, songs that made up the entirety of his set, I was utterly transported by the beauty of his music and voice. He has a very unusual guitar playing style which it is very easy to get lost in. There just wasn’t enough of it.

Songs like ‘Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ’, and ‘Woman, When I’ve raised Hell’ are painfully personal, and tell not only of the bitter and sad memories he must have of the end of the line for him and his wife. But they also reveal his previous heavy drinking and unreasonable behaviour that surely must have contributed in a significant way to the outcome. He says he has been sober for three years, and it is almost as if he has to tell the jokes to get away from the pain of his previous state of mind.

It sounds odd to say I felt short changed after being so utterly transported by his music, but in the end, that’s exactly what I did feel at the end of this sparse set. And the only one of the songs that he sung that was not absolutely magnificent was a rendition of ‘Rivers of Babylon’, which didn’t really work. I would have much preferred more of the fabulous, heartrending CD, and a few less goat jokes.

1 comment:

  1. There was only one goat joke, the other was a duck joke with the duck replaced by a goat. Give the man some credit! It's a great tradition in folk music to intersperse the misery with humour, and he did it well. I agree, I would've like more music, he could've played the whole album and still had half an hour of (hilarious) banter, but for me it didn't detract from the songs, it highlighted the bleakness by contrast. Lovely.