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Josh Okeefe - 'Bloomin' Josh Okeefe' Album Review


1. We're All The Same

2. Lucille, Lucille

3. Thoughts & Prayers

4. The Lonely Highway

5. When Mother Nature Calls

6. Talkin' Neighbour From Hell

7. Soldier

8. Young Sailor

9. Rolling With The Punches

10. Son Of The Working Class

Josh Okeefe’s highly anticipated full-length debut, 'Bloomin' Josh Okeefe' will be released Friday, May 29. The 10 track album of original material penned by Okeefe was recorded live by the late Grammy-winning Charlie Brocco (George Harrison, Fleetwood Mac, George Michael, Kacey Musgraves) over the course of two sessions at Nashville's historic Columbia Studio A, and mastered by Grammy-winning Greg Calbi (John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan) at Sterling Sound, Edgewater, NJ. So the production of this album has quality and heritage as part of its DNA. The album cover with a picture of Josh and the track listing is also reminiscent of Bob Dylan and David McWilliams debut albums.

Like the best of Folk music, Bloomin’ is simultaneously simple and complex, effortlessly cutting across geography, race, class and political chasms with the powerful album opener ‘We’re All The Same’. a concept that remains self-explanatory yet increasingly difficult to put into practice. Following the traditional formulae, of simple acoustic riffs and harmonica, the lyrics do the talking. Josh has a gravelly rich voice, and like all troubadours tells a simple but effective story. ‘Lucille, Lucille', is inspired in part by the late 19th century African-American ballad, ‘Railroad Bill.’ This is a tender and romantic song full of sorrow. The tour de force on the album for me is 'Thoughts And Prayers'. The lyrics are very clever, and the story telling is reminiscent of some of Bob Dylan’s best, angry work. Josh’s intonation along with the use of guitar and harmonica (not used in the video) also reminded me of Bob Dylan’s early work. The story is about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The anger of those students and the meaningless of the platitude ‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you’ shines through this song. This song will stick in your head, and is an exceptionally good song. ‘The Lonely Highway’ is another simple but mournful song about the end of the journey that we are all on.

‘When Mother Nature Calls’, sounds like an Irish Folk song, and sounds like a song about karma. By now you may think that Josh is an angry young man but he shows his lighter side and a lot of humour in ‘Talkin’ Neighbour From Hell’, which finds him sprinting “down the road like Usain Bolt,” in pursuit of a mistakenly (or was it maliciously?) towed Opel car. His talking blues style is skiffle. His accent and the references are pure Derby including the line “I looked out t’window, I couldn’t believe my eyes.” Many a Folk song is about wanderlust, service in the forces and missing those at home. Two of the services are represented by ‘Soldier’ and ‘Young Sailor’. The former is a Johnny Cash like song full of hope, and by contrast the latter is a more British lament of ‘A young Sailor, a little lost at sea’.

The penultimate song on the album ‘Rolling With The Punches’ is a high tempo Bluegrass number, written ‘for all the boxers in the world’. The acoustic guitar and harmonica on this are as sweet as they are simple. The shouted interludes give the song a lot of charm. ‘Son Of The Working Class’ is the sort of song that becomes an anthem sung in pubs and gatherings. In the song our hero bids goodbye to his lass to return to Derby, penniless and clearly heartbroken, but still hopeful of “promise in the promised land.” For the first time a banjo accompanies the guitar instead of a harmonica, which Josh has explained that “I left my harp box at the pizza shop prior to recording the song, so we had to fill the musical gaps between verses with a banjo that was laying around the studio,” This mistake has led to a song that contrasts the rest on the album, and the mournful song is a fitting close to an exceptionally good album.

Folk for decades in the UK has been fused with Punk, but Josh Okeefe takes Folk back to its roots. I think this album will resonate with a lot of people and across the ages. I like most forms of Folk, and this album ticks a lot more boxes than others I have heard. The fact that it is not Punk fuelled Folk, but more authentic makes it stand out for me.

There is a long line of troubadours armed only with an acoustic guitar and sometimes a harmonica sitting in front of them nestled in a holder that have given us Folk protest songs.

However I think there is a new name to add to the list, who fuses the UK and the US and is producing music more akin to the pure protest songs of Woody Guthrie. This fusion started in Derby and ended up in Nasville and Josh Okeefe has a sound far beyond his years. Throw in the heritage of the albums production, and you have something very special.

We have all heard of Guthrie, Ochs, Seger, Dylan, Donovan, Bragg and Turner. I am sure that once you have heard Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe , you will remember the name.

Bloomin Josh Okeefe is released on May 29th.

Review - Tony Creek

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