Born in Georgia and based in Nashville, Joshua Fletcher released his debut album way back in 2007, since which there’s only been a very limited and now discontinued EP. However, during that time, he’s been reassessing his songwriting, looking inward rather than casting stones at others, coming to fruition in this sophomore offering, Ready, Aim, produced by Alex Dezen of the Damnwells.
Fletcher has a soft, breathy, rasping vocal that’s seen him compared to Adam Durwitz of Counting Crows, one that’s best suited to the slower, more intimate material here, although the uptempo, rockier moments of the skittering Oh Midnight, Still Your Blues with its 80s-sounding synth and keyboard arrangement and lyrically tender album opener A Little Out Of Tune (“we’ll hold on to the winter til it breaks and I’ll pull you close like the moon when you shake”) work well enough, despite what sounds like a drum machine snare on the latter, something that also mars airy ballad Skylines.
Addressing themes of relationships, loneliness and growth and populated with images of oceans, tides and the moon, the album’s two standouts come early on. First up is the piano-backed The Eye and the Storm, a song about understanding who we are (“we’re the ocean’s tides, we rise when the moon is down”) written for the wedding of a family member, while, bedrocked by harmonica, acoustic guitar and steady drum beat, We Are All Alone is a wistful break up reflection as he sings “these roads were way too short for us to ever drive them straight.”
That said, if the mood catches you right, the melancholic, slow, stripped down but slowly building Shackled (apparently written when he was still at school) with its line about “all my misplaced lullabies”, is also a spellbinder.
Ghosts of the past loom large too, specifically in the album’s two closing numbers, the six minute, metronomic percussion Wheels (“I wasn’t looking for a ghost, but you came in just gliding across the floor”) with its haunted harmonica break, and the heavy sadness of The Wild One (“this old house, it speaks. All the floors beneath my feet say they miss you….. So I’ll write pour your ghosts a glass of red and watch your thunderstorms roll across the bed”), although the latter seems to be more about missing a place than a person.
I’m not sure there’s a single track here that will kickstart a breakout for Fletcher, but, taken together, the album provides a very solid foundation from which to reach out to wider audiences.
Review by: Mike Davies