Last of the Country Gentlemen
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Josh T. Pearson, former frontman of much-lauded band Lift to Experience, finally releases his debut solo album ten years after unexpectedly quitting music. Last of the Country Gentlemen is an epic journey of emotion and heartbreak, spanning just seven songs. Recorded acoustically over two nights, it features several tracks that clock in at over ten minutes, such as the cathartic centrepiece “Honeymoon’s Great! Wish You Were Her”. The result is a sprawling album of intense beauty and intimacy.
Josh T Pearson – wild-eyed, heavy-bearded frontman of the phenomenal-for-an-album (2001’s The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads) Denton rockers Lift to Experience – was thought adrift in the wilderness during the early 00s. That double-disc, concept-rich long-player, a hugely acclaimed release, is all the trio concocted of note before they were done, Pearson seeking refuge amongst the detritus of a thousand other stalled and collapsed careers.
But he was not lost: soon came faint echoes, whispers, of a resurfacing; later, an article in Stevie Chick and Steve Gullick’s Loose Lips Sink Ships magazine, where the artist was spotted during the annual South By Southwest industry shindig and subsequently followed, the buzz of the Austin hype-fest left in the dust. Live dates followed: damaged, intense, impossibly brilliant. Every word dripped with the weight of a dozen worlds. Every stomp of boot on stage could be heard in the afterlife. His performance at one London show left this writer at the edge of tears.
Last of the Country Gentlemen bears the scars of a life lived, loved ones found and lost, in the fallout of a dawning success never fulfilled. It’s a raw and white-knuckled collection, one which captures the phenomenal emotions of the man’s solo live sets. Recorded in just two nights in Berlin after its maker finally saw fit to commit seven songs to tape in the wake of numerous highly positive write-ups for his gigs, it’s bare of instrumentation, relying largely on just an acoustic guitar; across its strings Pearson’s fingers flick and feel, little precise but everything purposeful. Embellishments come in the form of light string arrangements, but producer Peter Salasa is wise to keep them in the background of the mix. Here, they support Pearson without overpowering him – which, given his near-whisper at the microphone, could have easily happened.
Pearson is not flashy of metaphor. He tells his tales – some striking, some mundane, but everything resonating with experience – like a bar-prop found in a backwater dive, willing to share but often caught in circles, his own rambling ways muddling a simple message. So, the story behind Honeymoon’s Great: Wish You Were Her – he’s married; he loves another – runs for 13 minutes when it could be just as affecting in half the time. It’s a captivating piece for Pearson’s weary, teary tones, but its spare form may test the patience of listeners used to quicker-of-fix catharsis. Three further numbers stretch for over 10 minutes, but once suckered attentions rarely stray. Lyrically, he’s not all doom and gloom without a little dark humour: "I know that Jesus saves / because nothing in this world is free" he sings on Country Dumb. Those who’ve witnessed Pearson live understand that he can share a joke and raise a toast, but these seven tracks are bruised delights, with religion close to the heart but open about God’s unwillingness to unwaveringly cooperate. The conversations Pearson had away from the hubbub of modernity have evidently bled into this solo debut. The first sound he makes, a wail on the wind which opens Thou Art Loosed, is a wordless call from an ethereal plane.
Women come, women go; spirits are lifted and downed; the heavens may smile or pour scorn. At the end of the day, a stool, a stage, and a spotlight comprise the environment that Pearson ultimately found comfort in. And Last of the Country Gentlemen is a brilliant framing of this home, bittersweet home.
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Top Customer Reviews
Seek out pictures today of Pearson and it appears that he could have stepped out of the pages of history. He could stand on the Battlefield at Gettysburg and look like a member of Pickett's Brigade and there is something about "Last of the country gentlemen" which has a timeless and spellbinding quality. It must rank with Neil Young's "Tonight the night" as an epic of desolate bleak beauty. In effect Pearson's album is aural equivalent to the written works of that western genius Cormac McCarthy and the albums weary central tenet is one of failure, burn out and approaching hell in a hand basket. This despair is summarized in the opening line to the glorious ten-minute plus "Country Dumb" that "I come from a long line in history of dreamers/each one more tired than the one before ". (Check out the alternative piano version on the Internet music blogs).Read more ›
I was wrong. This is Grimsville, USA. There is no saving grace, no light at the end of the tunnel, we are taken on a journey of self-indulgent, sprawling despair as Mr Pearson spills the traumas of his life out to us in seven songs of varying degrees of length and morbidity , and the questions I find at the back of my mind are when,where and why will I ever play this CD again? Whereas Oberst and Adams mix it up, Josh T drives relentlessly on, dragging us down into the pit. Musically too there is little to wrestle our attention from the message as too often the guitar and violin seem secondary to Pearson's mournful dirges. I'm a Palace Brothers, Bright Eyes, Whiskeytown kind of guy, steeped in the best of Americana but this left me stone cold. If you want Gospel folk then William Elliott Whitmore's 'Hymns for the Hopeless' is a better place to start. 'Hymns and Hopeless' just about sums this up.
I'm a big music fan, with very diverse taste, and I do like a bit of melancholia... and I really did try with this album, giving it several listens... but in the end I found it so 'moving' that I was compelled to move to my CD player to turn it off.
Seven excruciatingly long, droning whinges, based on a single musical idea which he then repeats throughout the album, so the songs merge into a single, endless swamp. All sung in a voice so dripping with theatrically over-emphasised angst that you'd want to slap the guy - if your mind hadn't already gone numb with the sheer tedium of it all. And boy, does he go on! And on, and on, and on - half the songs are over 10 minutes of aimless musical porridge. And just when you think a song is over, it drags itself back like a sick old dog clinging to the last, painful, vestiges of life.
While there are some good moments - lovely strings on 'woman when I've raised hell' and 'honeymoon'- sadly those moments of beauty soon disappear back into the endless swamp of self pity.
I felt pain when i listened to this - the kind of pain you feel when you're cornered in the pub by an old alcoholic with a head full of excruciatingly dull, self pitying stories.
Do not buy this album. Unless you're buying my copy in a selfless act of mercy
He picks and strums his guitar, teasing out of it the perfect complement to his worldweary yet ever hopeful voice, and in some tracks the presence of a swooning violin adds to the overall delicacy and beauty. The lyrics are wonderful, a Southern gothic of loss and striving that creates images so stark and visual it is like watching a film. Appearing ten years after the magnificent Lift to Experience cd, the Last of the Country Gentlemen is its flip side musically. And yet, although it is acoustic and gentle rather than electric and brash, it is arguably even more uplifting.
It is never easy sharing in the raw emotion of someone else's life, but I feel honoured to be allowed to share Pearson's heartfelt confessions. I hope he found it cathartic. The music it has given rise to is a wonder.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
quite liked lift to experience but i thought this just went on and on 0Published 11 months ago by Mr Michael Tolley
Hauntingly beautiful also check out lift for experience his former bandPublished 19 months ago by Mr. Pr Knox
I really love this album but equally can see why other people might hate it mainly because after introducing the CD to my workplace I am still the only one who likes it. Read morePublished 23 months ago by K Jones
Not as good as I was expecting to be honest. It's OK, but I didn't put it on repeat and want to keep hearing it, which is my measure of 'great' when I first buy an album.Published on 11 Mar. 2013 by Mike Blake
I wanted to like this. I should have liked it. All the boxes are ticked. Eccentric ,maverick americana. But I am afraid I cant get into this at all. Read morePublished on 22 Feb. 2012 by Pj Beirne
I feel compelled to write a review having read some of the others here. I had been meaning to buy this album for a while and read some of the reviews just out of interest. Read morePublished on 19 Feb. 2012 by P. S. Palmer
There's good music, there's great music, and of course there's rubbish music. Every once in a while I come across a record that is something else entirely. Read morePublished on 12 Jan. 2012 by Cuban Heel