Thursday, April 19, 2018

Album Review: Joshua Hedley - Mr. Jukebox

Joshua Hedley
Mr. Jukebox
**** out of *****

The newest release from Third Man Records is Nashville's own Joshua Hedley whose love for classic country played in saw dust on the floor saloons, seeps onto this record. Mr. Jukebox is a stunning collection of songs that seem like they have been played in smokey juke joints for fifty years or more, showing off the craft and skill of Hedley.

The title of the album also happens to be Joshua's nickname as he is a staple on the Nashville live music scene and has an impressive knowledge of the genre, he describes this all gamely in the title track which laments the declining popularity of live performance. Before arriving at that one though the opening number really catapults Hedley forward, "Counting All My Tears" is a brokenhearted lament that cuts to the bone with Hedley's amazing lyrics and vocal delivery; the man knows how to construct a weeper from a bygone generation. 

That said the schmaltz and strings that colored (and polluted) lots of 60's and 70's Nashville records show up as well. "Weird Thought Thinker" waltzes and sashays around the bar stools with a twinkle but the overly dramatic "Let's Take A Vacation" piles it on thickly with background "ohhs" and "ahhs". While things can go overboard, the production is always pristine sounding rich and deep with lots of layers throughout.   

The quick "These Walls" is a winner closing with low end brass blows while "I Never (Shed A Tear)" contains gorgeous backing vocals all before the dynamite slow build of "Don't Waste Your Tears" which finds Hedley channeling Elvis Presley vocally and manages to incorporate the strings in knockout fashion.

The backing band are Nashville's players as steel guitarist Eddie Lange, guitarist Jeremy Fetzer, bassist Michael Rinne, percussionist Jon Radford and pianist/organist Micah Hulscher all contribute. The album is a quick listen and the finale is a soft jazz shuffle through "When You Wish Upon A Star", allowing the tears to stop flowing into beer mugs and finish on a positive lighthearted jaunt. 

Third Man Records introduced Margo Price to a larger audience and now Joshua Hedley continues the streak of true classic country successes for the label. Current country fans can skip this, but for fans who love the foundation and heyday of the genre Mr. Jukebox will be a refreshing ride. 
Support the artist, buy the record, peep some video below:

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