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Jerry Joseph Jerry Joseph
Album: The Beautiful Madness
Label: Decor
Tracks: 10

I'm of the view that Rock music - in all its forms - has been around long enough to have become a branch of Folk music, with a crystallisation into archetypes as solid as the older tradition's ballads, reels, jigs etc.

It's been a long time since I heard anything in the field that musically diverged drastically from its predecessors, and most of its better exponents rely on their lyrics to carve out a sliver of originality.

Jerry Joseph easily manages that latter aspect, while being very definitely of the Bruce Springsteen school: hard, punchy anthems, many with a message attached. There is an occasional trip down the closely-related Steve Earle country-rock lane - I could well imagine Steve singing Full Body Echo and Dead Confederate (a great, well-written social issues song) - but the bulk of this CD is aimed pretty squarely at the rock anthem crowd.

That said, Jerry Joseph's songs are definitely superior examples of their kind, and I'd bet he's one hell of a live performer - his website says he's scheduled for St. Luke's here early next year and I predict the Glasgow crowd will love him.

So: strong, mainstream adult rock songs with excellent lyrics that show a mature writer able to insert himself deeply into different personae via songs like Days of Heaven or I'm in Love with Hyrum Black, while able also to address the wider social issues of our time in songs like Good (which features a synth keyboard line that atypically overlaid a touch of early Pink Floyd on a piece of rock Americana).

Overall, I'd say this album has both impressive songwriting and great performances by Joseph and backing outfit Drive-By Truckers. If you like Springsteen, this is both similar and different enough to pique your taste.

I do have one quibble though, and that's that the production by Paterson Hood, while obviously trying for a BIG sound, has perhaps pushed the soundboard a bit too hard, resulting in some clipping - particularly on keyboards - and a vocal that might benefit from a little less harshness in its sound. That said, there are those who like their sound a bit overdriven, so, if that's you, go for it!

Bob Leslie