The True Country Spirit of Americana Finds a New Voice.
If I’ve done my Maths correctly Holding On is Josh Harty’s fifth solo album in 8 years or so; not counting the two albums he’s made with best-friend and often co-writer Blake Thomas; and coupled with all those years touring the USA and the God forsaken parts of Europe he has now made his very best record to date.
The title track, which opens the album is a very pleasant surprise indeed, as it sounds a lot more ‘Country’ than I’d remembered Josh Harty for. Sung from the point of view of a man whose dreams keep getting broken and his hard work unrewarded; he still keeps ploughing on; and indeed Holding On waiting for the break that may or may not come.
Half way through track #3 the emotionally ‘tight’ Round and Round; I was undecided whether Harty was reminding me of an edgy Gordon Lightfoot or a smooth Sturgill Simpson; or indeed a little bit of both.
There’s no doubting Harty has a truly expressive voice and his way with words is as good as anyone on the circuit these days; but what has really taken me by surprise is his guitar playing. Okay; we aren’t talking Eric Clapton solos here; but the way he bends those notes to fit the mood of his songs (Ballad for a friend is a great example) is quite extraordinary at times.
Certainly the way the band sound (the drummer is an exponent of the ‘less is more’ tsch-tsch school) and the road weary/heart broken stories in the songs make this feel a lot more Country than before; but Harty has developed a bit of a Southern ‘slur’ and a honeyed tone to his voice; which makes songs like You and the Road and the dreamy and windswept The Kind sound perfect for today’s Country Radio; but will please older fans of the likes of Poco or the Flying Burrito Brothers.
While I love the album as a whole; it’s accompanied me on a couple of longish car journeys recently; I’ve pulled out two songs for my Summer Holiday playlist; the dark and gloomy tale of homesickness, English Rain and the gentle but nervy Learn to Fight; which is one of the finest Americana songs you will hear all year.
What’s not to like? Josh Harty has a great and expressive voice, which he uses to interpret his own songs in a way very few of his peers can do; plus he has the backing of a host of excellent musicians who are empathetic to his every musical whim.
Released April 8th 2016