My Kind of Country

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

Album Review: Josh Thompson – ‘Way Out Here’

It’s easy to categorize new Columbia artist Josh Thompson as another in the long line of outlaw wannabe who needs to tell us how country he is rather than showing it in the music. He does have more life experience to draw on than some of his competitors, having spent several years working in the real world before coming to Nashville in his 30s.

However, self-conscious statements of countriness do form the core theme for the songs on his debut album (all written or co-written by Josh), including the title track, which is a “my hometown is so country” number, complete with name-dropping mention of Johnny Cash, and is Josh’s new single. It is probably just generic enough to be a hit, as is ‘Blame It On Waylon’, co-written with former artist Rhett Akins, and a likely future single (it is one of the tracks billed rather prematurely on a sticker as a ‘hit song’). This is borne out in these lyrics:

If I got a don’t care attitude and long hair
And mean every damn word I’m singin’
I blame it on Waylon
And all them other outlaws

This seems to be more about image than substance, missing the point on a fairly fundamental level. The best part of this track comes in the instrumental break at the end of the song, where the rhythm actually is reminiscent of Waylon, rather than generic rock-country, and feels more like a genuine tribute than the main part of the song. The forgettably generic ‘You Ain’t Seen Country Yet’ references Haggard in the lyrics seemingly at random, and also features annoying “crowd” noise. ‘A Name In This Town’, written with Casey Beathard and David Lee Murphy, has more specific detail and a sense of ambivalence about the home town, which makes it the best of the songs in this vein. ‘Always Been Me’ has a hackneyed hook line, but feels the most sincere.

But there is some real substance here, notably with Josh’s sole solo composition, the reflective ‘Sinner’, my favorite track. It is encouraging to see that this is one of the songs expected to be a single, according to the label sticker. It treads a well-worn path thematically, but it is one that never really palls, as the protagonist humbly confesses his sins and inadequacies:

My heart’s been filled with hate, greed and envy
But I believe Jesus died to save souls like me

Cause I’m a sinner, that’s just what I am
Sometimes the devil can get the upper hand
But I hit my knees, close my eyes and bow my head
And thank the good Lord that when it comes to forgiveness
He’s no quitter cause I’m a sinner

If heaven had a limit
On the number of commandments you could break
Before they just cast your soul away
Well then, there’s no doubt
Where I’ll be heading when I check out

The song also benefits from Josh’s best vocal interpretation, coming across as more heartfelt than all the posturing.

The other really good song here is the waltz-time ‘I Won’t Go Crazy’, a dogged determination not to crack up over his heartbreak, co-written with Dallas Davidson. On a similar theme is the more superficial ‘Won’t Be Lonely Long’. I like the low key opening with the protagonist down in the dumps after his girl has walked out, but luckily she left at 7 pm on a Friday night, enabling him to go out and drown his sorrows (or have a good time instead). It isn’t a bad song (although any love whose loss is so easily overcome suggests it is fairly shallow-rooted), but it becomes less interesting as it bursts into the rocking chorus; I could imagine Brooks & Dunn doing this. I did like the wry spoken outro (“is it too late to get you back?”) which hints at something a little more ambivalent than the body of the song offers.

The pleasant ‘Back Around’ offers mellow recollections of teenage love, and is nice enough as far as it takes us, but lacks context – there is no indication as to how the relationship ended up, and Josh is not a sufficiently expressive singer to give us more than the lyric supplies. Josh’s debut single, the punchily fast-paced working man’s declaration of working hard to put ‘Beer On The Table’ sounds just like early Tim McGraw (or Tim’s more recent ‘It’s A Business Doing Pleasure with You’), and seems to have peaked just inside the top 20. It’s no classic, but it is quite entertaining, and one of the more memorable tracks here.

Neither Josh’s voice nor his material are particularly distinctive, but some of it is worth hearing. The current artist he reminds me of most strongly stylistically is Eric Church. I would be interested in hearing more if he could find the inspiration to tread some less well trodden paths in his songs.

Grade: C+

Way Out Here is available as a CD or digitally from amazon.

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10 responses to “Album Review: Josh Thompson – ‘Way Out Here’

  1. Pingback: Ryan Bingham Joins Country Throwdown Tour; Brad Paisley’s Bruise; Blake Shelton Tops Country Chart | The 9513

  2. Judy March 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Well – here is why Josh talks about Merle Haggard at what may seem to be a ‘random name dropping” because he is Josh’s hero. The reason he talks about Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings….is because that is the music that he actually listens to and loves.

    The guy can sing you every song by all of them.,…he knows more about their life stories because they are his heros.

    It is pretty easy to make a blanket statement about someone you do not know. I believe I read this from Saving Country Music – Josh was described as a ‘frat boy’ and frankly, I bust a gut laughing. Josh probably can’t even spell fraternity correctly.

    I don’t think it matters what the truth is about Josh Thompson, because it just seems quite often that the critics would rather just take the easy way and rip an artist down.

    He is not a label manufactured wannabe outlaw. I don’t think he has ever been arrested, but the boy does like him some PBR and Jack Daniels. He also hunts a lot in northern Wisconsin. He is a member of the NRA, he loves his mama, his daddy died in 2006 and Josh wears a chrome plated bullet casing from the 21 gun salute given at his dad’s funeral, he has read the autobiographies of all his heros and he lived off the land for 9 months… Does that help his ‘credibilty”?

    Why don’t you let go of the idea that there will be another Waylon, Haggard, Cash and Willie? There won’t. So why don’t you let other artists be themselves. Personally, I love Blame it on Waylon….If I claimed to blame it on waylon, yes it would be a lie, I grew up on the Bee Gees and Andy Gibb. I didn’t fall in love with country music until adulthood.

    Not really sure why using Waylon’s name offends Saving Country Music, except to think that everything offends SCM.

  3. Lila March 10, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    Ummmm I think someone needs to do a re-evaluation, OBVOIUSLY someone is NOT listening to the WORDS to these songs CORRECTLY cause EVERYTHING is taken outta context I think… besides dont crucify someone until you’ve had a chance to see them in concert or meet them.

    • Erik March 10, 2010 at 3:06 pm

      C+ is hardly crucifying anyone. And I can’t hate Carrie Underwood just because I haven’t met the woman?

      • Leeann Ward March 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm

        “And I can’t hate Carrie Underwood just because I haven’t met the woman?”

        Well, Eric, “Hate” is a pretty strong reaction to have regarding a singer, though also rhetorically weak.

  4. Saving Country Music March 10, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    I thought this was an honest, fair, well-written and thought out review. I would’ve not been nearly as impartial.

  5. Kelly March 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm

    “The pleasant ‘Back Around’ offers mellow recollections of teenage love, and is nice enough as far as it takes us, but lacks context – there is no indication as to how the relationship ended up”

    Apparently you didn’t LISTEN to this song very well. This song is about remembering the first time with the woman the singer is STILL with! The lyrics: …Didn’t say nothing, we just laid right there. NOW, WHEN I WAKE UP TO YOUR FACE, I GO BACK to where we lost more than a diamond earring, FOUND FOREVER when I held you near me. Holding on like the world was ending, you & I found a NEW BEGINNING.

    I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Josh & his music for almost 2 years. He doesn’t sing what he doesn’t BELIEVE. He is an AMAZING songwriter and this album barely scratches the surface of his talent. Personally, I think the CD he sold out of his back pocket, before signing his record deal, is better than this one. As with most songwriters, their BEST songs often are not commercial enough for the $uits to publish. Hopefully, his next CD will be more representative of his incredible talent.

    • Peyton April 19, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      thank you kelly. i was about to have to write the lyrics for back around but you beat me to the punch. i bought josh thompsons cd the day it came out and it hasn’t left the cd player in my truck since and i know all the words to all the songs, i absolutely love it. he’s real, and most “country” music now days isnt. country music needs quite a few more guys like josh thompson (not saying that there isnt, there just arnt enough of them).

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