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Josh T Pearson – Glasgow, Stereo

Josh T Pearson is a complex character. ‘I’ve started to refer to myself as a group’, he says. ‘That Josh T Pearson, he’s a real nice bunch of guys.’ This will be merely confirmation of a long-held suspicion for anyone who has followed the career of the superbly-bearded Texan. In a previous life he fronted Lift to Experience, a classic American rock group perched on the fringes of the alt.rock scene. After a career which yielded stellar reviews and no money, he’s struck out on his own with  Last of the Country Gentlemen, an album coming to a Best of 2011 list near you.

It’s an unflinching, brutal record; his acoustic guitar accompanied only by his voice, at turns accusing and accepting, he sings songs of a divorce which sounds as though it set fire to his soul. It’s not the kind of thing you’ll hear at parties, unless you go to some really odd parties.

He seems as surprised as anyone else that he’s sold out Stereo, a largeish venue in Glasgow’s City Centre. ‘Man, there’s a lot of people out there’ he drawls, his accent so thick you could whittle it. ‘And that’s a really sad record, yet you’re all here. Crazy world we’re living in’. And with that he’s off, with an implausibly haunting version of ‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ by Boney M. It’s probably a joke, but it doesn’t seem like it.

He’s then into the album proper, with the gorgeous ‘Woman, When I’ve Raised Hell’ and ‘Sorry in a Song’. Having asked for silence, he’s got it and the crowd are rewarded with some astonishing guitar playing and as good a feel for quiet/loud as Frank Black ever managed. These songs are folk songs, imbued with guts and honesty. Sometimes almost too much honesty – it’s genuinely heartbreaking to hear the depths which emerge.

The reason for that is that he’s such an engaging character. You care. Bantering with the audience, stopping and starting songs, there’s no artifice to Josh T Pearson. He’s out to play his songs and entertain while he’s at it. He apologises if anyone finds his between-song levity incongruous given the nature of the music, but he needn’t worry. It’s so unaffected that it just seems like another part of his show.

He ends with ‘Country Dumb’ and he’s gone, a 50 minute set which was a masterclass in how to connect with an audience on just about every level. This album is going to be the word-of-mouth event of the year. Get in early.

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One Response

  1. It was a great gig……captures it well.

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