Joseph Childress “Joseph Childress” (Empty Cellar 2017)

Another record born from an authentic American experience – this time Childress’s time in the Old West, including cattle ranching in Wyoming. Nobody seems to write songs in their dingy flat anymore (apart from the handful that Childress wrote for this album in a small San Francisco apartment!) This is his second album, following 2013’s The Rebirths. Musically speaking, Childress isn’t your hardened country cowboy though. He’s a counter-tenor in the mould of Conor Oberst or M.Ward, maybe even a touch of Neil Young too.

Opening track My Land is very reminiscent of Old Shakey in its loping beat and pitchy, high pitched vocal melody. The voice/acoustic only tracks make for a very intimate, almost claustrophobic (in a good way) feel. He could easily be sat right next to you, playing. This dovetails with the personal, introspective nature that characterises many of the songs. White Castle Creek Mother isn’t about the down-market burger restaurant, thankfully. It’s an imagining of hard times growing up in the America wilderness, again as Neil Young is often moved to pen. Childress can do bitterness and ire well too – Leaving The Barren Ground is a depiction of an angry, violent end to a relationship. All through the record, the accompanying musicians do Childress proud with sparse, understated addition of slide guitar, fiddle and bass/drums. They leave ample space for the stories within the songs and the fragile vocal melodies to take centre stage.

Author: Mark Nenadic

Quite likes music. Doesn't really like people. From The North. Exiled in The Midlands due to radical views on whippets/flat caps. Beards and plaid shirts belong on Willie Nelson. Everybody else should smarten up a bit ..

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