Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Some weeks never seem to get out of the damp and dank darkness and it's always unsettling. Yesterday, Kyp Malone, after meeting my two young daughters at the studio, mentioned getting them out to get some sunlight and I secretly wished that were possible, but this week - into the second unseasonable week of weather as some season impersonating autumn is here with whipping winds and ugly rains. We're not getting into the kind season at all, but one that is going to break us down into whimpering men and women, crushing our spirits. Again today was another morning and afternoon when there were no peekings from the sun and the fallen leaves covering the lawn and driveway remained coated with a slick layer of water that made them easily transportable into the foyers and mud rooms of homes, just to fall off after a few more steps, leaving a black eye on the carpet. Joshua James, a Nebraska native, is used to not only the onset of the Midwestern winter months, but also the lonely drumming of desolation that occupies the chests of those fortunate or otherwise, who are born and stuck in the middle of the prairie states - the very exact area that gets a wrinkled brow from travelers trying to get from Chicago to Colorado or even further away. It's just a slow waiting game for the excitement to kick back in. What it leaves for people to play with and to contemplate is the deepness and the wholesome quality of the desolation that so dominates the heads of the young when it's their plight and prison. James is a songwriter with more than just a hint of beauty in his voice and his words seem to come from the ends of dusty roads and bottomless nights that just keep on stretching and stretching and feeling as if they'll never turn. The songs on his latest album, "Build Me This," and his previous, "The Sun Is Always Brighter," are full of tales of unmistakable woes that would never be considered rare or out of the ordinary. They are the troubles that happen all the time, in daylight and under the cast of moons and shadows. They are people thinking for themselves and only for themselves, but also just as often, thinking only for one other - bereft with the sinking feeling that everything will eventually shatter. There are tiny little cracks in the windshield of many of the characters and lives that he gives pumping hearts and moving hands and with the wrong move and a bumpy road, a good slam of the tires could lead to an entire window busting out and leaving them with a seat full of spidered up, turquoise at the edges glass. On the lovely version of "Soul and the Sea" here, James sounds ever so briefly as if he might disintegrate into small weep, just one tear, but it doesn't at all sound like a weakness, just pretty honesty, as if there's really nowhere to hide and there's no use in ignoring whatever it is that is burying its claws into him. It's sitting and waiting for the soul to either straighten its back or to unravel into a glorious mess right in front of the eyes.
Joshua James Official Site