# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 3 / 3 / 2011

Josh T. Pearson - Last of the Country Gentlemen
Label: Mute Records
Format: CD


Confusing and demanding, yet certainl remarkable debut solo album from former Lift To Experience front man, Josh T. Pearson

When Josh T. Pearson first emerged on the music scene as the front man in Lift To Experience, he seemed unbelievable. A Texan son of a southern preacher, he brought apocalyptic tales of a vengeful God and wrapped them up in a epic post-blues, with soaring vocals. It was part Jeff Buckley, part 'Slow Train Coming'-era Dylan, part John Lee Hooker and part Godspeed You Black Emperor. The band fizzled out after just one album, but that album, ‘The Texas Jerusalem Crosswords’ was not easily forgotten. A double album, it was packed with feedback strewn epics and doom-laden religious imagery. "We’re simply the best damned band in the whole damned land," sang Pearson on the album’s astonishing centrepiece, ‘These Are The Days’. He wasn’t far wrong. Although Pearson has performed fairly regularly as a solo artist since then, (apart from a Hank Williams cover on a split single in 2007) these are the first recordings he’s released since then. He clearly hasn’t tired of writing epic, soul bearing music. Some listeners will find their patience exhausted, others will be enraptured. The night before writing this review, I was at the Union Chapel, and I overheard two people having conversations that could only be about this album - “it’s cathartic, like a confessional… only seven tracks…its nearly an hour long, but he has an amazing voice.” For my part, the strange rhythms mean it took me at least three listens to even begin to feel like I’d got my head round the songs. His lovely voice and the unabashed passion so obviously on display made me think that there must be more to this record and keep playing, but I can‘t help wishing he’d chopped the songs up and varied the pace occasionally. It's certainly as bleak an album as any I own and will require patience. The brave souls at Mute who have taken this record on must be hoping for good reviews, because it s noti going to get much radio play! The tone of Pearson’s voice is not totally dissimilar to Ryan Adams, but that‘s where the sell-able aspects end. No attempt has been made to make ‘The Last of the Country Gentlemen’ immediate. Pearson’s seven songs are very long, with strange off kilter acoustic guitar and the only adornment being occasional violin from Warren Ellis and even more occasional piano from modern composer Dustin O’Hallaran. The opening song, ‘Thou Art Loosed’ is short, mournful, unadorned, and begins as just an echo before his vocals come in, followed by his delicately plucked acoustic guitar. In everything but its brevity, it is an accurate primer for what is to follow. The next track, ’Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ’ feels almost like a stream of consciousness, as Pearson verges between religious ecstasy and despair, singing “I’m so tired of waiting around for a girl who’ll never make it, night after night after night.” It feels better when on ‘Woman When I’ve Raised Hell’, Warren Ellis arrives with his violin. His desolate playing doesn’t lighten the mood, but it offers welcome variety from Pearson’s acoustic strums. The next song could have been lifted straight out of the 1930s, as Pearson falls for a women who isn’t his wife. “What will I tell my pastor and that still blushing bride?”, he asks, before addressing his wife tragically with the song‘s title, “the honeymoon was great, but I wish that you were her”. There are enough arresting moments - be they cathartic emotional string parts or just beautiful string parts - to hold your interest, and within the relentlessly slow, sad pace, even some moments of surprise, notably when the album's finest song, ‘Country Dumb’ ends with a brief Elvis impression. But, in conclusion, I’m afraid that this is a sitting-on-the-fence review. Based on my overheard Union Chapel conversations, there are going to be people who are very impressed with this album. But, I’m also sure that ‘The Last of theCountry Gentlemen’ isn’t perfect. At the ten minutes mark, as ‘Sweetheart I Ain’t Your Christ’ finally reaches what seems like its climax, with Pearson repeating “Sweetheart I ain’t your Christ’, it feels like he’s stumbled upon the point of the track, making its lengthy duration seem worthwhile. Another minute of alternatively strummed then picked guitar rather spoils the effect. You’ll need patience. Its either a classic, its epic scope transcending its folk-country origins, or a waste, the lengthy deviations and lack of focus distracting from the passionate vocal performances. Certainly, it contains some remarkable music. How often I’m going to want to hear it the future, however, remains uncertain.

Track Listing:-
1 Thou Art Loosed
2 Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ
3 Woman When I've Raised Hell
4 Honeymoon Is Great, I Wish You Were Her
5 Sorry With A Song
6 Country Dumb
7 Drive Her Out

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