Based in Philadelphia, Josh Mathews is about to release his first album A-Sides. His music, which stems from a lineage of street poets like Richie Havens and Sixto Rodriguez, has been described as Urban Folk but his pensive, guitar-wielding persona is anything but derivative. One part mid-western hip hop delivery (Atmosphere), one part 60’s folk commentary (Jackson Brown); A-Sides is an unique journey through the thoughtful, inquisitive, hopeful and often brutally honest mind of a young man who takes his time on this earth very seriously. An unadulterated slice of his life.
Working through the tracks, and there’s a generous number, each has an identity but the whole has a coherent identifiable charm. Some top choices are: Lockdown, With A Sound, Why Not, Everything I’m Not, Two Ton Feet, Dear John and Home.
On Lockdown you can hear the rawness of the streets he spent three years busking across America on. Appearing on these songs are howling dogs, traffic, footfall, basic guitar picking, whistling, tapping of the guitar for a beat and lyrics about abstract thoughts. The final shriek reveals the fear and semi-horror of it all.
With A Sound’s lyrics, “Caught between a rock/I’m afraid to fail and I’m afraid to succeed/So I’ll take my pack and carry it on my back/And fade away… “ tell the story of a homeless person. It’s a melodic song with a typical folk narrative.
Why Not has a sweet open-hearted sing-a-long chorus, “I want love/Obvious love/I want love to strike me like a hammer”. It’s a simple guitar song with bare feeling, accompanied by what sounds like the tapping of spoons and a bongo.
Everything I’m Not is very Leonard Cohen inspired with its compressed quirky and clever lyrics, softened by the accordion,“Everything that I’m not and all that I am has been said and done, that’s part of being a man”.
Two Ton Feet is destined for a designer jean or phone advertisement with its simple ironic smile appeal. However, Dear John is the perfect and sad illustration of the awkwardness of male communication with Interlude acting as a manic, desperate and drunken phone call referring to the same topic, appearing just before Dear John on the record.
Home is the ultimate wandering minstrel angst with its lyrics, “I wanna feel it pump through every single vein/I wanna hear it loud and clear in my feelings and feel it in my brain/A home/A home/A home”.
This album is different in a reassuringly and familiar way and big things could come to Josh Matthews.
A-Sides is a Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen and Seasick Steve themed record with a modern twist on the sea chanty and folk genres.
A-Sides will be released on January 14.
By Kate Dexter