“would-be-great, ungrateful, too-long, run-on songs”: Josh T. Pearson – The Last of the Country Gentlemen (2011)

josh“An all-timer, though?”.  That was a question I found myself pondering when I spotted this one at the weekend.  That’s a question I ask when I see something that I had bought previously on CD (the pre-record player days).  “If it’s not an all-timer then stick with the CD”.  That’s what I tell myself.  Sometimes that mantra doesn’t quite work.  Sometimes it works a treat.  Anyhoo, I digress.  This one I had on CD (the Rough Trade edition with the alternative cover and electric bonus disc).  While I don’t listen to it regularly (can anyone!), I still find myself bowled over by it’s power and solitude.  Heck, as I held the record I thought about the very first time I heard this.  I was completely speechless.  Staring at the speakers and just completely in the grasp of Josh T. Pearson‘s playing and his words. Ten years earlier, of course, Pearson and his band, Lift to Experience, were responsible for a most excellent and sprawling post-apocalyptic soundtrack.  Their album, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads, is one of the great albums.  The Last of the Country Gentlemen, however, is as clear an illustration as any that much can change.  The fuzzed-up guitar and rumbling rhythms gone and replaced with nothing but a sole acoustic guitar and some sparse and occasional violin accompaniment (Warren Ellis really lights up Woman When I’ve Raised Hell).  The Biblical imagery replaced by self-reflection and heartache. In terms of break-up albums, there’s nothing like it.  It’s blunt.  Really blunt.  It doesn’t have the melodies of Beck’s Sea Change (or the recent Morning Phase) or the swagger of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black.  There’s nothing moving the songs on but Pearson.  In his own time. So as I held this in my hands I thought “yup, all-timer”.  I might not listen to this an awfy lot, but I’ll still sit absolutely still when it plays.  Listening to every murmur.  Every sigh and every heartbreaking note from that guitar. … plus, there’s the magnificent ‘vinyl only’ title track.  Hurrah!

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