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Joshua Hedley (from the album Neon Blue on New West Records) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Barbara Mandrell once famously declared ‘I was Country when Country wasn’t cool’. These days, she wouldn’t have to worry. Country is more popular than ever, with a well-established template that’s made it commercially credible as well. The subjects they sing about are well etched within their musical mantra — cheating spouses, beer, bars and carousing on a rowdy Saturday night — and today’s up and coming artists have mostly learned those lessons well, guaranteeing them a shot at getting airplay and the headliner status that follows in its wake.
Joshua Hedley is one of those artists who factors in familiarity by taking those themes and sharing them with his gruff, good ol’ boy delivery. Its approach works well, and while his sophomore album Neon Blue doesn’t exactly break new ground, it’s clear that he’s well positioned to make his name known in Nashville’s inner circles.
Still, though he fits in well with today’s current crop of Country contenders. Joshua Hedley is also a sworn traditionalist as well. Raised in Florida, he was drawn to the sound of fiddles, steel guitars, and the revelry of the honky-tonks early on. Not surprisingly, the new album bears traces of that old time tradition, from the sway and swagger of the self-effacing “Country & Western” (‘I’m a singing professor of Country and Western, I’ll cry along to a steel guitar in any old lonely bar’) to the tears-in-the-beer balladry of “Old Heartbroken Blues”, the stoic confession found in “Down To My Last Lie”, and the twangy title track.
As a result, the majority of the songs are steeped in either heartbreak or bravado, even though it’s clear from the rugged and reflective “Bury Me With My Boots On”, Hedley is decidedly unapologetic as well. He’s staked out his stance as an artist who is Country to the core. Notably too, all the songs are originals, save the final entry, Roger Miller’s “River in the Rain”, and it’s an ace crop of musicians that serve the sentiment up well. Two albums in, Joshua Hedley’s made it clear that he’s the real deal. (by Lee Zimmerman)
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