Joshua Black Wilkins - Rogue LP
It’s interesting how music can sound when it finds a perfect balance: When it walks a fine line between different styles, it gains a whole new identity that reflects the personality of the artist playing it. Nashville songwriter Joshua Black Wilkins unleashes that and more with his 10th album Rogue that came out on June 2. His fearless lyrics that scrutinize the current social and political landscape, along with his roots-y and blues-y aesthetic, spread his soul on canvas. Wilkins has never been one to sugarcoat anything: He’ll say exactly what he’s thinking, and he has an unapologetic way of doing that through his music. “The title came from a conversation I had with a friend regarding me not being involved in the current local music scene. He told me I ‘rode my own wave’” Wilkins said of the meaning behind the album. “The album was written under duress during, and mostly in reference to, the last couple years of our social and political unrest,” a common theme throughout Rogue with an honest approach and a penetrating outlook. There’s also a blend of banjo, guitar, harmonica and keys providing a structure that’s both poignant and stripped down. It’s an album without any filler but plenty of substance. It’s refreshing hearing something coming out of Nashville that isn’t the homogenized pop-country crap usually played on the radio, a hard-hitting example of a real alternative better in countless ways. It’s also music whose meaning resonates with the listener – rather than a half-assed song about doing the nasty in a pickup truck and drinking a Bud Light. To delve more into what the Nashville alternative really is, grab a hold of my top tracks off of the Album of the Week. A rabble rouser of a song is “Tough Or Lucky,” where Wilkins’ emphatically raspy voice sings about taking what life throws while the music itself is rhythmic and rigid. “Coke Sweats” examines addiction and vices while exuding a jumping sound that finds a groove. One that talks about the history and reality of racism in the south is “Don’t Go to Alabama” – the somber track has Wilkins giving numerous shoutouts to Bruce Springsteen while singing about the tension caused by prejudice and inequality. Wilkins will be performing with Warsaw Falcons at The Southgate House Revival in Newport, KY, on June 9. If you’re in the area then you should experience the pleasure of seeing him play live. Hopefully Wilkins will venture up to New England at some point this year, so be on the lookout for any announcements. In the meantime, grab a copy of Rogue: It’s a stellar album that’ll leave a lasting impression.