Josh Smith stokes the fires of Americana on his new EP
There's something about the observations and turn of phrase in Applicacian music that stops the heart and stirs the soul. In his other project Handsome & the Humbles, songwriter Josh Smith explores Americana through a rockier output, but this album is roots pure and simple. Typically in this kind of music, there's usually a story that accompanies the brutally honest vocals, rolling guitars and yearning fiddles and Smith has each chapter marked.
He doesn't spare our feeling as he gets straight into the devastating final journey of a train before it goes off the tracks in 10 18. What starts as an optimistic road song about a man travelling back to see loved ones soon descends into something nightmarish. It's a helluva slap in the face to start a new project, but a reminder that songs are not always about the gushy hokey stuff.
The black cloud lingers across the rest of the album with the title track dealing with murder-suicide in the fabulously dark title track - which has shades of Nick Cave's Murder Ballards. Things get worse before they get better as Certain Expectations forces us to once again confront our humanity along with how beliefs and structures impact our lives.
Searching for Jesus taps into Smiths own relationship with his faith. It still has melancholy overtones, but whether you choose Smith's route for interpretation, or something equally spiritual or Existential, it does offer a glimmer of hope.
No matter if the stories Smith weaves are uplifting or tragic there's always something deeply human about how he constructs them. They are simple and poetic with nothing extraneous. Every line he sings feels as though he's laying bare our frailties. This is nothing new. Afterall, Americana in all its forms can lay claim to ripping away layers of our emotion like no other music on the planet.
Channelling conventional genre elements and adding a modern spin is perhaps what makes Josh Smith a worthy troubadour of the new Americana movement; akin to artists like The White Buffalo and American Young.
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