Me & Joe (EP)

Max Gomez

Brigadoon Records, 2017

http://www.maxgomezmusic.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/12/2019

All clichés are born from a kernel of truth. And the truth is it’s hard to talk about an artist like Max Gomez—a roots-music singer-songwriter whose insightful lyrics and masterful way with a song belie his youthful laconic drifter persona—without leaning on phrases like “old soul in a young body.” Sometimes the cliché just fits.

As first heard on his 2013 full-length debut Rule The World, Gomez’s songs tread the same trails as troubadours like Shawn Mullins (with whom he’s co-written), John Hiatt, James McMurtry, and Jackson Browne. Where he makes his own distinct mark is in the way his sleepy-eyed delivery and gentle, approachable vibe contrast with the bite of his lyrics and muscle of his melodies.

Me & Joe is a brief set—just four new songs plus one rearrangement of an old one, and less than 20 minutes of music—that still manages to make a considerable impact.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Senseless Love” opens up with an airy soundscape full of warm precision and rolling melody, gradually adding elements until the track—at its core an acoustic folk-pop number—achieves substantial momentum and density of sound. And well it should, with the stellar band supporting Gomez for these sessions: Taras Prodaniuk (bass, Richard Thompson, Dwight Yoakam), Jim Christie (drums, Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams), Doug Pettibone (guitar, dobro, Lucinda Williams, Marianne Faithfull), Patrick Warren (keys, Shawn Mullins, Lana Del Ray), and the great Greg Leisz (pedal steel, Jackson Browne and hundreds more), with Lauren Bath and Jesse Aycock providing backing vocals and veteran producer Jim Scott (Tedeschi Trucks Band, Tom Petty and many, many more) at the board.

Anchoring this set is the deceptively simple, earworm-catchy and utterly sweet “Make It Me,” which finds Gomez offering this typically self-deprecating entreaty to the object of his affections: “If you love somebody, baby, make it me.” There’s a weariness at the heart of this song that amplifies its emotional resonance, like Gomez is too roadworn to put up a real fight for the relationship, but is still hoping for the best anyway.

Gomez pal Jed Zimmerman penned the semi-title track “Joe,” a story-song told from the point of view of a hard-living character who dreams of an easier life that’s always just out of reach as he continues to run away from his past. “Sweet Cruel World” further emphasizes Gomez’s unique perspective, an old-timey back-porch acoustic folk number complete with accordion, dobro and barroom piano as Gomez croons about the contradictions of life.

Closing things out, the band takes a fresh, mostly acoustic run at the title track from Gomez’s 2013 debut album, stripping back that album’s mainstream ambitions and recasting the song as the sharp little folk-pop anthem it always was underneath.

There’s something inherently soothing about Gomez’s easygoing approach to performance, a casual poise that underlies and contrasts cleverly with even the most self-critical lyric. Me & Joe was cut in three days with the band playing all together in the studio most of the time, and that organic interplay and quiet confidence shows in the results, a shimmering showcase for Gomez’s sturdy songs and hardscrabble wisdom. Whatever comes next, I’m on board.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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