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CD Reviews: Review of Jaywalker by Josh Joplin
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Josh Joplin: Jaywalker (Eleven Thirty 2005)

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The way the music industry works, the highly unfortunate reality of the matter is that Josh Joplin may have already missed out on his chance at the big time.

After releasing two independent albums – Boxing Nostalgic and Projector Head – the members of the Josh Joplin Band brushed their hands against the brass ring twice: first when their song, “Matter,” appeared on an Aware Records compilation, but, moreso, when the band signed with Artemis Records, released their third album, Useful Music. They scored a radio hit with the album’s lead single, “Camera One,” and toured the world and elsewhere, including a stint with fellow up-and-comers Dexter Freebish. Unfortunately, the momentum from that track was insufficient; the group’s second album for the label, The Future That Was, fizzled.

So here we are a few years later. The Josh Joplin Band is no more and Joplin is out of the majors and back in the indies.

With his distinctive voice (best described as a cross between Michael Stipe and Richard Butler of the Psychedelic Furs), Joplin’s gone less electric this time around, using strings and piano to add emotion to the more acoustic feel of the proceedings; the best example of this is found on “A Hard Year.” It’s hard not to think of the Smiths with a song entitled “Jaywalkers of the World,” but, given the melancholy in many of Joplin’s songs, that may well be intentional. Still, the bounce of “Mortimer’s Ghost” and sweeping chorus of “Empire State” keep things upbeat, and “The World on a Shoestring” may well be his optimistic, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, new theme song:

“Here I am, unemployed again
As broke as I can be
But all I need is this old guitar
An open case and a crowded street.”

It’s got to rankle Joplin that peers like Pete Yorn and John Mayer are still burning up the adult alternative airwaves (even if, in some cases, it’s with tracks from a few years ago), but it shouldn’t. Joplin has the chops to become a cult hero, and, frankly, that’s where the credibility is; you might not sell as many records, but it guarantees you a dedicated fanbase who’ll buy every record you do release. Fortunately, in this case, no-one’s going to be going out on a limb solely because of their devotion to Joplin’s cause; Jaywalker is an album that any fan of catchy folk-pop will enjoy.

~Will Harris 


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