Review: Joshua James – From The Top Of Willamette Mountain

 

Joshua James’s latest offering conjures up images of rural landscapes and misty American valleys, which seems apt considering he has spent the past couple of years living simply in Utah, as a consequence building a deeper relationship with the environment that surrounded him there. This idea is undoubtedly present in From The Top Of Willamette Mountain, which displays a remarkably raw sound and a beautiful sense of immediacy and honesty.

I’m not hugely impressed by the first few tracks: there’s some charming piano playing in Surrender but it’s not particularly inventive overall, and Queen Of The City is a little harsh in sound for me. However, this is made up for with the heartbreakingly sincere Doctor, Oh Doctor, which with a delicate resonance and beautifully crafted lyrics puts across a lovely message about love, hope and devotion.

Certain songs seem to be rather reminiscent of Ben Howard, perhaps most notably Ghost In The Town. This in itself contains areas in which words are abandoned in favour of haunting murmurs and guitar strumming, provoking a reflective and nostalgic feeling in a song that appropriately concerns letting go of youth.

Sister begins quietly but soon transforms into more of bellow, interspersed with periods of calm, demonstrating the sheer passion Joshua James puts into his music. Accompanied by heavy instrumentals and a powerful beat, this shift from quiet to loud is frequent across the album and aids in the creation of a lasting atmosphere.

Songs such as Willamette MTN and Feel The Same have a sound that appeals more to me personally; being perhaps slightly warmer and more poetic lyrically than can be found elsewhere on From The Top Of Willamette Mountain. Intricately worded and softly sung, there is both elegance and thoughtfulness present here, and the climactic ending of Feel The Same is a powerful way to draw the album to a close.

The focus of each song does appear to be predominantly on James’s voice which, although wonderfully husky, at times fails to constitute for a slight lack of interesting and catchy melodies. Despite certainly managing to create an intense, almost eerie, atmosphere and working well as an album overall, I can’t really pinpoint many songs that I would want to listen to individually. It’s a poignant statement of James’s creativity as an artist, but for me there’s something missing.

Flossie Wildblood