Joshua Hedley is the latest young singer to steep himself in the sounds of country music of the past. Signed to rock star Jack White’s private label, his debut album was produced by Skyler Wilson and Jordan (son of Kyle) Lehning. This is not merely traditional, it is self-consciously (sometimes too much so) retro-traditional, to the point, at times, of pastiche. While the songs are mostly newly composed (mostly by Hedley himself), they would not be remotely out of place in a record made in 1963.
Joshua has a strong, deep voice with a touch of vibrato, which is showcased best on the opening track. This is a genuinely superb ballad laced with steel guitar. The protagonist encounters an ex he has done wrong, after many years; she has moved on and he not only hasn’t, he has no wish to do so.
The title track is an excellent shuffle which serves as a tribute to the great country music of the era the album salutes. Also great is the ballad ‘This Time’.
Joshua takes on the Bakersfield Sound in ‘These Walls’, another very good song about a broken heart.
‘I Never (Shed A Tear)’ is a mid paced song about a broken heart again, and denial of the same. This one doesn’t suit Hedley’s voice as well as other songs, with the emotion flattened out, and the retro backing voices just sound dated rather than retro-cool. ‘Let’s Take A Vacation’ is a dreamy ballad edging into a more sophisticated countrypolitan style, while ‘Weird Thought Thinker’ has a western feel.
‘Don’t Waste Your Tears’ is heavily strung but the song, another ballad, suits the lower ranges of Hedley’s voice extremely well. ‘Let Them Talk’ is a more hardcore honky tonk tune which is highly enjoyable, with fun male call and response backing vocals. It is all too short, at under two minutes.
Listening to this record, I feel the lack of a duet or two – I’d love to hear Joshua taming up with someone like Amber Digby.
The only misstep comes at the end of the set, with the only cover, a flat version of the Disney classic ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’.
Overall, though, despite the occasional sense of deliberate copying, this is an excellent album which I recommend to all more traditional country fans.