The first time we speak, Josh T. Pearson is frosty. One word answers to long-winded questions mentally winding me and leaving me wondering what I had to do to get anything out of him. I confess that I’ve not heard his upcoming record, The Last Of The Country Gentlemen and he calls an end to our conversation, setting me some homework to carry out before we try again to gain a rapport. I am charged with listening to the album, watching the 1995 Jim Jarmusch film Dead Man and making a call on the best burrito vendor in London.
The record is hard-going – sparse and minimal, just an electric guitar and his tortured wail for the most part. The lyrical themes revolve around his apparent personal struggles with himself, the women in his life, his faith and alcohol, but he refuses to be drawn on exact details, insisting “it’s all on the record. Everything I want to say publicly, that is.” While the emotional base is raw and jagged, the audio tone is quiet and soft, inviting a close listen, so I wonder whether instead of looking to relate to other people, that he simply desires to be observed. This gets shot down just as succinctly. “I don’t think it should be observed at all. I don’t get that feeling from it. Not that I wanna be observed, no more than I have to be..”
This is the first body of work that Pearson’s completed and released in almost a decade, since Lift To Experience’s double-album opus The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads in June 2001, but again, he’s somewhat evasive when pressed on his motivations to put something out when the inspiration for the songs seems so acutely fresh in the memory. “These songs are way too personal and I didn’t really plan on releasing them, I just happened to be playing some live shows in Ireland and.. they were just going to be for my own cathartic sense, but they really seemed to touch some people, so I weighed it against my own protection and thought that it may be worth it, for them.”
There’s a great sadness at the surface of what Josh does – he wears his battered and weary heart on his sleeve at all times. Though when the subject changes from his music to absolutely anything else, he’s an erudite comedian, wise-cracking about Hull and reciting a ditty he sings when he’s headed for trouble at customs: “Tryin’ to get into London on a passport with no visa/and what these juke joints pay ya, they can barely afford to feed ya.”
“I read a good.. I read a great story one time in the papers when I was there. Some gal had jumped off a bridge to commit suicide, and she wrote across her stomach: ‘cause of death: Julio’, which I thought was beautiful. I mean..” with which he takes a deep breath, as if to inhale the sheer poetic misery. “Just, ah.. what a great image that is. Writing your lover’s name across your belly in permanent ink..”
A simple gesture seems to have him spellbound, and it’s perhaps because it speaks to the part of his personality where his music comes from - his heart is big and open, but wounded and tired.
“You want the best for people.. it’d be a sign that they’ve had a pretty happy, healthy life if my record didn’t move them in any way, so I put it out there for the others that didn’t have that luck.”
Group therapy’s in session, and Josh T. Pearson here to make it all better.
(p.s. it’s Luardo’s)
#1 - David Thomas Broughton - Ever Rotating Sky
No doubt in my mind whatsoever about this being the number one.
I think one of my biggest problems with music criticism is that when you read a gushing 10/10 review, no matter how well argued and written, I struggle to understand how anyone can write sufficiently about something with such a rating. It’s not a problem with art viewed as being perfect - songs to come and songs way posted back here I would describe as perfect - but, as pretentious as it sounds/is, records like David Thomas Broughton’s The Complete Guide To Insufficiency go way beyond perfection to a place where words are, ahem, insufficient - a theme that’s come up throughout Don’t Make Lists but is fittingly no more true when describing this. I’ll try my best.
The closer to my favourite record ever made, it perhaps only works in context rather than a standalone piece. Context in this case being the entire album and seeing Broughton perform live. You might view this as a flaw but this was never supposed to be some zeitgeisty definitive or consensus-calculating top 365 but rather one pretty bad writer with nothing better to do. And the context is completely there for me; listening to this record a thousand times, following the man around every tiny nook and cranny in Leeds and later seeing him stun larger audiences in support slots for Shearwater and Twi The Humble Feather.
Having said that, this couldn’t be a better introduction and I hope that if you’re introduced to this it clicks half as much as it does for me. Ever Rotating Sky itself is a Reichian masterpiece, a blend of drone and experimentalism mixed with the traditional folk song to create something unparalleled. The calm of what can be loosely described as a looping chorus eventually descending into a chaos of a glorious mix of vocals, guitar, drum machines and natural finger-on-wood percussion. Recorded in a single take in Leeds’ Wrangthorn church.
If with this year-long project just one person discovers David Thomas Broughton, it’s been entirely worth it. Thanks so much for reading.
Nowt to add but this and more.
#6 - BARR - Half Of Two Times Two (Newer Version)
Lyrically, I can’t think of any better records over the past decade than BARR’s Summary. This is the closest thing the record has to a pop song I suppose, and i’m pretty sure i’ve heard this a thousand times now.
eyes closed eyes open eyes closed eyes open eyes closed eyes open eyes closed eyes open eyes closed eyes open
oh my god you did not call me bro
This one of my photos is getting quite a few views recently. Can’t work it out, but thought I should air it again anyway.
This was at End Of The Road 2009. My buddy Aaron and I were walking through the forest when we came across this girl tapping away at her typewriter, with a healthy crowd surrounding her. This is an approximation of this scene - http://bit.ly/gD40nU - composed purely of different strokes of a typewriter.
Here’s her website, should you wish to see more: http://www.keirarathbone.com/
Summer Camp at Green Man by Leah Pritchard. Amazing picture.
Most fun I’ve ever had in a photopit. I was beaming from ear to ear.