Golden delivers a fine mix of Blues soaked Americana on excellent debut.
Hailing from Virginia, Justin Golden has grown up steeped in the distinctive sound of the fingerpicked Piedmont blues so synonymous with his home state, which still resonates to the distant echo of Blind Blake. It is therefore no surprise that Golden’s sound is a keen mix of Blake as well as that of Blind Boy Fuller and Taj Mahal, but what is slightly more surprising and what adds a distinctive bent to Golden’s songs is the influence of the likes of Hiss Golden Messenger, Phil Cook and even Bon Ivor, all helping to create a very individualist style whilst still embedded in a very familiar musical landscape.
This debut album, ‘Hard Times And A Woman’, opens with the track, ‘Can’t Get Right’, which immediately gets the attention with a rocking blues riff, while Golden sings of the plight of having and loosing it all, before spending the rest of the song convincing his baby that he’s, “trying hard to get it all back”. This cautionary tale is a constant theme that runs through the album with an emphasis on being wary of when things start going too well, only to be followed by heartache, along with the harsh realities of being black in today’s America. ‘Ain’t Just Luck’, continues with this lyrical message while some fine harmonica and slide guitar playing underpins the foot tapping groove. That’s not to suggest there’s no light with the shade as songs like, ‘Lightning When She Smiles’, with its infectious shuffle beat and delicious backing vocals and, ‘Must Be Honey’, a soulful delight where the organ joins the guitar and vocals to create an upbeat joyous sound that invites the listener to sing along.
Golden has a strong soulful voice that accompanies his rhythmic guitar playing and through his songwriting showcases the full breadth of the Americana genre that his songs fluidly traverse. From the country blues of, ‘Moon Far Away’, and, ‘Call Me When The Bed Gets Cold’, with its deft alternative bass line fingerpicking and slow burning groove, to the gospel of, ‘Oh Lord, Oh Lord’, and, ‘Why The Sun Goes Down’, with its Pop Staples guitar style intro, and chorus line that cries out for Mavis to cover. All this and, ‘If I Keep It Together’, which sounds like it could have come from a recent Black Keys album, complete with fuzzed out guitars highlighting the production skills of Chip Hale who’s deft touch through out the albums twelve tracks helps give each song a structural depth allowing the listener to discover something new on repeated plays.
It would be fair to say that with this remarkable debut album Golden has appeared on the scene fully formed with a collection of songs that already have a timeless quality about them, while at the same time both infectious and of their time. Collectively they come together to not just be one of the best debut albums of the year, but one of this year’s best albums per se.