Josh T. Pearson - Last Of The Country Gentlemen
Only consider if you're sure you're up to it. The ex-Lift To Experience frontman's extraordinarily demanding album is a howl from the backwoods; lovingly detailed but as raw and exposed as salt on an open wound. There are just seven songs but they contain multitudes. Bar the opening 'Thou Art Loosed' and the closing 'Drive Her Out', average song length is ten or more minutes. With just acoustic guitar (and occasional mournful violin) and voice, Pearson unpicks the trials of life with deliberate and exacting focus. The whole effect is initially unnerving and then, once you've acclimatised and accepted that no hooks and very few laughs is the order of the day, there's no turning back. You won't be singing along, I can assure you, to the likes of 'Honeymoon Is Great! Wish You Were Her' though. The guitar, all tricksy arpeggios and melodic u-turns, is delicate and unfussy; imagine Jacob Golden's 'Revenge Songs' but with the dreaminess replaced with self-hate and a hissing sea of inner turmoil. It takes work to differentiate between songs when the palette is so fixed and purposeful but such is the challenge. I can't imagine anything in 2011 unsettling me quite like the dawning realisation during second track 'Woman I Ain't Your Christ' that we're at the nine minute mark and still going strong. The overriding theme is, roughly, 'Babe, I'm a sorry asshole loser and you're better off without me (but it's not all my fault, you difficult bitch)'. If the storytelling doesn't get you, if the daring and guile of its unforgiving form doesn't squeeze the air from your lungs, then Pearson's voice surely will. At times no more than a blackened burr, a barbed wire whisper, and then soaring, tremulous and full, it's a showcase for a rare gift and a salutory lesson in technique and control. Go carefully with this one.