Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Joshua Black Wilkins is not only a musician. but he is a darned good photographer as well. He brings motion and life to still photos. The pictures are so vivid and well shot, it has the feeling of a motion picture, not a still. Joshua does the same thing with his music. He brings his songs to life. They are moving as well. Many moving parts and pieces that don’t just make a song, they make a musical movement.
Joshua lists the following performers/acts as influences: Ryan Adams, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Pearl Jam, Violent Femmes, and Johnny Cash. I can definitely get the aura of all the aforementioned. There is one omission, that I think needs to be added to the list: Lucero. I hear a lot of Lucero in this music. The voice of Joshua Black Wilkins and Ben Nichols of Lucero are quite similar in tone and cadence. And all is right with the world. This is cowboy, outlaw, and some serious fucking rock and roll all squished together to make a colossal sound.
The music is blue collar. I don’t mean that as a slight in any way. It is just that this music is working class music similar to Bruce Springsteen, The Drive By Truckers, and Lucero. Joshua’s writing is very personal and very descriptive. A bit cynical at times, but also extremely powerful. This is a greater sleeper album for 2017. Hopefully, it won’t be a sleeper much longer. I believe this one will have staying power.
Give Black Lies (Track 5) a good listen. This is one darned powerful track right here. A sad tale about a man who has been scorned by a woman. The time period and geography may be different, but this theme is as old as human history. It has never been stated quite like this. Joshua sure does know how to use unique phrasings. Not only are the music and vocals worth noting, the lyrics are of equal importance.
Some of the songs are less noisy than others; however, World Ain’t Your Ashtray (Track 10), isn’t one of them. No, this song brings the noise! Another tale that isn’t a happy one. An honest observation, just not exactly the most optimistic. But, that is the new normal. Great writing and lyrical delivery.
A song that is a little bit on the softer side, but still delivers a heavy message, is Bad, Bad News (Track 2). What the song may lack in production and instrumentation, it more than makes up for with the powerful lyrics. What I’m saying is–this song couldn’t be done any other way. The minimalism is what gives the song it’s strength and power. Joshua delivers the vocals with the utmost honesty and sincerity and 1,000% emotion. And it soaks through in a big way.
This is an amazing album in a year of standouts. Rogue is so good, it should be illegal. Luckily, it is perfectly legal and available wherever fine books and albums are sold. I think we all know where that is….That notwithstanding, this is one fine album.