Singing since he was five, when he’d play shows with his lawman/preacher father across the Midwest, releasing a cassette with dad at the ripe of old age of 12 (they made two, selling a total of 10,000) , the Dakota-born songsmith Josh Harty has more recently released five albums (three solo, two collaborations) in between touring across the States, Europe and the UK.
It was while on the road that he wrote the material for his latest offering Holding On (no prizes for guessing where the mandolin-flecked English Rain was penned), a full band collection of ten numbers steeped in Americana dust and delivered in a husky, weather-beaten voice that’s been variously likened to Townes van Zandt, Steve Earle and Gordon Lightfoot. The latter’s certainly evident in the title track opener, its rhythm conjuring images of a train rolling across wide prairies, while Learn To Fight has definite early Earle shades, but listen to Ballad For A Friend, a murder ballad inspired by the killing of a Dallas schoolboy by two others over a girl, and Round And Round and it’s clear that Mark Knopfler plays a distinct part too.
However, Harty’s songs (and the jaunty You And The Road, penned by Nashville’s Brooks West) rise above the comparison game, delivering strong melodies, catchy hooks and choruses and lyrics that, drawing on personal experience, have much to do with a life in motion and the shortness of the road, a theme that informs both Running and The Kind. The countrified rolling Wired, with its mandolin, pedal steel and infectious chorus, is a particular personal favourite, but it’s a mark of the album’s strength is that everything here has the potential to be someone’s.
Review by: Mike Davies
Holding On is out now.
Order via Bandcamp
Upcoming UK Shows
Apr 21 – The Musician Pub, Leicester
Apr 22 – View Two Gallery, Liverpool
Apr 23 – Thimblemill Library, Birmingham