Velvet vocals make for an affecting and emotive slice of Americana.
‘The Ghost and The Wall’ is the ninth studio album from singer-songwriter Joshua Radin. Radin is all about distinctive vocals delivered, at times, with a softly spoken, almost whispered reverence. With over a million records sold to date Radin has a formula that has clearly struck a chord with the record/downloading public.
The album’s heart is in that voice and, for the most part, its gentle ballads. Accompaniment tends to be sparse which is a tactic that allows the voice to be the dominant instrument. ‘I’ll Be Your Friend’ is as good a case in point as any; subtle piano and strings employed to great effect. Radin injects an emotive feeling to his vocals, suggesting that every word comes from the heart. It is an observation that could be attached to any of the songs here.
The album title refers to Radin’s exploration of the walls we build to protect ourselves against sadness and pain, especially in relation to the trauma that many have had to endure over the last year or so. ‘Better Life’ brings a rare move into up-tempo territory and ponders on how the hope and optimism of immigrants searching for a new start demonstrates a resilience that most of us will hopefully never have to employ. It is a reflection upon longing and alienation, a subject matter on which Radin openly admits to being fixated upon.
‘Make It Easy’ explores the relentless search for love, a longing of a very different kind, but a topic that feels tailor-made for Radin’s ‘heart on your sleeve’ approach to songwriting. His is the voice of heartache, of loving and leaving, of soul-searching. With a simple acoustic backing and some subtly effective female vocal harmonies this as good a track as any for the listener to understand what Radin is all about and indeed, what he does best.
Radin can be forgiven his occasional drifts into more poppy, commercial radio friendly mode. After all, the man is successful for a reason and that voice is always going to go down well on the airwaves. But lovers of all things Americana are rewarded with the honesty of the songwriting and Radin’s ability to wring every drop of emotion from these songs.