My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Josh Logan – ‘I Am What I Am’

joshlogan2_smallKentucky-born Josh Logan was one of those artists who fell through the cracks of a major (or almost-major) label deal when he was signed to Curb in the late 80s. His excellent 1988 album Somebody Paints The Wall included the first version of the title track, later a big hit for Tracy Lawrence and also recorded by George Jones, and Aaron Tippin’s ‘I Was Born with A Broken Heart’. Another early single was pulled when Conway Twitty released the same song. For whatever reason, Josh Logan never made any impact at radio, and was unceremoniously dropped by Curb. He has released a handful of independent albums in the years since, and the latest has just come my way.

Josh has a big deep baritone voice which could never be anything but country. His approach is normally solidly traditional, but this album is unfortunately produced by Del Gray, drummer for the group Little Texas, and I’m afraid I’m not over-impressed by Gray’s production skills, as the sound is a little muddy at times. The vocals are good, though, and some of the songs are excellent, making this a worthwhile purchase overall.

Josh is not a songwriter himself, but producer Gray has provided some of the material himself. Regrettably, some of these are the most dispensable and lyrically cliched moments on the record, such as the forgettable ‘I’d Be Good At Lovin’ You’. The unconvincing southern rock/outlaw posturing of the title track gets the set off to a disappointing start, as this is just not a style suited in any way to Josh’s voice. The worst of Gray’s songs is ‘BFE’, an overproduced and boring paean to the country lifestyle whose hook is incomprehensible. There are 13 tracks on the album, so cutting these three would have been a much better decision.

As a writer, Gray redeems himself with two offerings, both co-written with Zack Turner. ‘Old Die Hards Like Me’ lauds the honky tonk lifestyle to a slightly melancholy tune, and I thoroughly enjoyed honky-tonker ‘The Path Of Least Resistance’, which is, of course, “straight down to the bar” when love falls through. Neither song breaks any new ground lyrically, but they are both enjoyable. The same goes for ‘Dead & Gone’, a song about the appeal of country music written by another Little Texas member, Porter Howell, with Paul Jefferson and Johnny Slate – you’ll know it’s dead, Josh sings in rather melancholy tones, when no one falls in love or walks the floor with a broken heart – or when Hank Williams is no longer played on AM radio. It is not quite clear how ironic the lyric is intended to be.

In a completely different league are a brace of songs which are genuinely great. ‘Change My Mind’ is a lovely hard country waltz from the pens of Jamey Johnson, Carson Chamberlain and Anthony Smith, about falling in love again, a little unwillingly. It opens,
“Can’t you see I’m drinkin’
Does it look like I came here to dance?
Aw, you’re sweet for asking
But the last thing I need is romance
You got a voice like an angel
And beauty that’s hard to resist
I said never again but then again if you insist
On changin’ my mind in three quarter time…

In similar style and on a like theme is ‘A Man Is A Man’, written by Carson Chamberlain with Chris Stapleton of the SteelDrivers. Here, it is the guy who gets things started (“I haven’t danced in a while, But would you like a slow dance”), but his hopes for any future are overshadowed by past experience, declaring in the chorus:

“You can hold on just as hard as you can
But sometimes love slips through your hand
No matter how hard you try
Only God understands why
A woman’s a woman
And a man is a man”

Chamberlain and Stapleton contribute another outstanding bar-room waltz in the weighty ‘Not Much Of A Man’, as the protagonist confesses to his new romantic interest:

“If you’re looking for alone, you’ve found the guy,
I’m the master of guilt and cheap alibis
When the devil starts dancin’ I’m in the band
I’m a whole lot of heartaches, not much of a man”

There is also a fine cover of ‘I Would Have Loved You All Night Long’, once recorded by our Spotlight Artist this month, Keith Whitley. Josh’s version lacks the subtlety of Whitley’s version, but it is such a lovely song it is always good to hear, and Josh tackles it with commitment.

Less successful is the topical but awkwardly written ‘This Thing Called Recession’; sadly, “I wish someone would figure out a way to stop it” is as incisive as it gets, but there is no doubting Josh’s earnestness. The album closes with ‘Good Ol’ Junkyard Dog’, a song specifically written for Josh, a onetime junkyard worker, about acccepting the changes in his life. The song’s naturally relaxed feel is spoiled by an unnecessarily intrusive percussion track. Similarly, the light Cajun feel of the pleasant I’ll Need You” doesn’t quite work, and the vocals are too low in the mix.

I’ve liked Josh Logan’s voice since I first heard it when he was on Curb. This album is flawed, mainly due to the production, so I can’t recommend it without reservation. The handful of outstanding songs mean I don’t regret having acquired it myself. Hear clips for yourself at CDBaby. And if you come across a used copy of his Curb CD Somebody Paints The Wall, snap it up.

Grade: B

4 responses to “Album Review: Josh Logan – ‘I Am What I Am’

  1. J.R. Journey May 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    John Berry also had a top 10 hit with ‘Change My Mind’ in the 90s.

  2. Leeann Ward May 13, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    From the clips I heard, I can’t get into Josh’s voice. It’s too flat for me, I guess.

    J.R., I don’t think it’s the same song as the John Berry single.

  3. V.E.G. October 13, 2009 at 2:31 pm

    The Country Waltz is a possibly an off-shoot of a Viennese Waltz. The man has a Southern extraction and of distant Austrian ancestry, was David Wayne Gilcrease. Gilcrease has best of both worlds.

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