Using a banjo to peddle eir wares, Josh Small makes for a very American and alternative look on what is traditionally folk music. Not subscribing to the elitist feel of a number of Devendra Banhart-related CDs, Josh Small has the feeling on eir first track “Pushing Boulders” of one of the dime-a-dozen acoustic guitarists. What is different for me is eir heavy use of profanity in eir tracks; instead of being squeaky clean like Matthew West, Josh is much more similar to Rich Hardesty. In the second track, “Fall Motherfuckers Fall”, a catchy rhythm is built upon the shoulders of the banjo and a second set of vocals (Sumitra). The recording is nowhere near the best, but this gives this entire disc a homemade charm that will win over legion of fans. The use of banjo instead of acoustic guitar is a nice derivation from the typical acoustic-douchebag, and the wry humor present on this disc sets its apart from the insincerity of acts like John Maher, Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews. “Setting Up” uses a different arrangement from the traditional opening tracks of this disc – the staggered nature of the track offer a vision of Josh just idly strumming away at eir banjo, without caring who exactly is listening to eir.
Some of the tracks dwell in a repetition that Josh finds hard to break; such is the key problem with “Crying of Bunker 49”, which has little to do with the ultimately confusing Pynchon book that Small has modified the title. The deliberate and plodding tracks found on this disc (such as “2×2”) present another considerable roadblock for Josh; there is just not enough instrumentally or vocally to ensure that a listener’s attention through the 4-minute average runtime of these tracks.
Throwing in some of Dave Matthews’ shrill endings to “Look At Me”, Josh has probably eir strongest outing in the rough drumming found on this track. Simply put, more instrumentation is the panacea for all of Josh’s woes. The empty spots that plagued eir disappear when the crashing glass and deep drum-beats fill the track in a succinct and deliberative manner. Josh Small has created a disc that is well above the average for the genre, infusing a sense of sincerity and soul to a genre that is rife with panderers to a drunken frat-boy constituency. While there are some visible issues with the disc, Josh puts eir heart out on the line and it is this desire to just bare all that will win more people than a kid and eir banjo should.
Top Tracks: Not Cross, Look at Me