Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Josh Small - Tall

Josh Small - Tall
Suburban Home

A few months ago, my friend Jon said to me, "I'm tired of people who don't listen to folk or punk trying to play folk punk." This is as true a statement regarding the folk punk explosion as you'll ever hear. Luckily, Josh Small listens to lots of folk, and plays it well. This record doesn't fall into the same genre as your typical Against Me! clones. Instead, Josh Small plays bluesy folk music that stands on the strength of its songwriting, rooted deeply in Americana.

For those that don't know, Josh Small is a singer/songwriter from Richmond VA. He's toured with a variety of bands, and recently has been playing in Tim Barry's touring band. Small is a talented musician, who plays guitar, mandolin, and banjo pretty extensively on this record, and plays these, as well as other instruments in a live setting.

Tall, his debut LP, is 12 songs that sound like Richmond. Josh definitely lives slow, and this album sounds like it was written in late nights on a front porch sipping whiskey, or around a campfire with some friends, and I mean that in the best way possible. This slow life is best personified when Small cries "If New York's all you need, you don't need me." Layers of honesty and downright soulfulness weave intricate stories and melodies that get stuck in your head, long after the record is over. At times, and this sounds strange, but I get a very Sufjan Stevens vibe from a lot of the songs. Small has an ability to turn a simple folks/blues song into a memory. Part of this honesty comes from the production of this. The layers of instrumentation is crisp and clear, and the vocals feel like they're in the room with you. The slight breaking and creaking of Josh's voice comes through in every word, and comes through as intimate and personal.

Really, I can't say enough good things about this. If you're into blues or folk, or even the more recent folk-punk boom, I would definitely check this out. My only problems with this album are slight. I think some of the songs run on a bit too long. Few song clocks in under 4 minutes, and while they're good, there are times when I just don't have the attention span. Secondly, I'm having a hard time finding this LP at a decent price. It's actually a double LP, and I'm sure it looks great, but Suburban Home sells it for about $25, which is pretty high, especially since shipping isn't included. However, I'm sure I'll be picking it up soon, and definitely if I find it cheaper.

"Damn, look at that porch!"

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