Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Album Review - Russell Joslin 'Jet Black And White'

A singer-songwriter can be anything from an unwelcome pub musical disaster to Bob Dylan. I have a negative disposition when I see an artist describe themselves as such as there is a great chance of being underwhelmed due to the liklihood is that the music is compiled simply of a man and a guitar...and the man could be anybody from an unwelcome pub musical disaster to Bob Dylan - and Bob Dylan has been done.

If I do say so myself I am usually rather good at accurately comparing one musician or group with another, but Russell Joslin has left me stumped. This would mean that for one man and a guitar, he appears to have created a sound that hasn’t really been done before. It’s not a new genre and it’s not some abstract form of experimentation, it’s just what decent singer songwriter music should be, a man telling his story which if he’s telling it right is from a unique standpoint. Like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two singer-songwriter songs should ever be quite alike for this reason, no matter how many times a topic is exhausted. The vocal exploration is another refreshing factor, he toys with softness and forcefulness, falsetto and speak-singing alternating from word to word leaving not a messy sound but rather an untamed skin and bones simpleness that basic songwriting should be about.

Joslin’s second album Jet Black and White is as bluesy as his first. Despite my earlier claim that I had lost the ability to compare, one likeness comes to mind in the particularly twangy grassroots track Liars Blues which has moments of contained anger reminiscent of William Elliot Whitmore threatening to unleash itself at any given moment.

There’s actual feeling behind this music as the lyrics are sung with meaning and the fear of the guitar strings snapping as a result of over-emotional plucking is ever-present.

No matter how talented the artist it can be difficult to sustain interest for an entire album when you’re left with few tools to do so, so the relief of the harmonica in Pale Mary is far from unwelcome.

Lyrically the rhyming is clever and at moments heart-wrenching with poignant observations, "There are so many hearts on the market, why'd you have to go and pick mine?" This melancholy mood is lifted with the track Great Things with finger-picked major guitar and energetic harmonica.

Russell Joslin is a man with stories to tell and they are stories worth a listen.

Jet Black And White by Russell Joslin is available now.

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