Josh Bray - Whisky and Wool - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Josh Bray - Whisky and Wool

by James Bray Rating:6 Release Date:2011-03-14

Josh Bray's is a Devon born, folky, 70s-infused singer/songwriter. Bray's debut is just one of a panoply of folk and country records that have appeared over the past six months. Given the current state of the music scene, the resurgence of folk music is hardly surprising. This year's Brit Awards was mostly dominated by either R&B or folky, bearded people singing songs about the 18th century. With the popularity of acts such as Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, it's much easier for people like Josh Bray to find an audience.

Unlike the aforementioned Brit winners, Bray may find it difficult to asssert an identity beyond that of a generic purveyor of derivative folk music. His musical style owes a lot to Nick Drake, the hugely talented British artist of the 1970s. The first half of Bray's album has the same restrained production that characterised Drake's output; there is intricate acoustic guitar work, wistful vocals, hushed drumming and accompaniament from cello and strings. The first song on the aptly titled Whisky and Wool is even entitled 'The River Song', surely a hommage to Drake's haunting classic 'River Man'.

So, early in the album, Bray asserts his place in a musical tradition that, unfortunately, dwarfs his own work. That's not to say that his songs are bad, in fact they're quite good. Songs like 'Rise' and 'This is Life' are nice, atmospheric elegies, but the album is limited by the lack of originality of the finished product. On 'Bigger Than the Both of Us', Bray intones, "I'm feelin' fine, I was born a dandelion, swaying low as the breeze that blows my mind", and there are plenty more of these clichéd, lyrical misfires on Whisky and Wool. Apart from the meditations on Nick Drake, Bray also experiments with countrified rock music on songs like 'Hard Living'. On this track in particular, it's as if he has adopted the specific register of American country radio, that or his record company thought that it would be a good idea for him to sound a bit more like James Morrison.

Bray has managed to create a folk album that is pleasant in its wooly familiarity, and is evocative its boozy sentimentality. However, he still has work to do to find his own voice.

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