The Hunting & The Hope

Joe Thompson

Galuminum Foil, 2007

http://baldjoey.com

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/04/2008

Comparisons can be a compliment or an albatross; I‘ve certainly been conscious of that danger when comparing artists whose work I’ve enjoyed to iconic acts like the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

So it was with at least one eyebrow raised that I read where Joe Thompson’s one-sheet rather audaciously suggests he sometimes sounds like Johnny Cash -- and damned if that isn’t right on target. There’s a depth of tone and resonance and a sense of hard-won experience on several these tracks that grants Thompson a Cash-like authority over the listener’s attention. The vibrato Thompson throws in sometimes also reminds me a bit of Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies -- not that the music sounds anything like that; it’s more dirty-cheeked Nashvillemy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 than tongue-in-cheek Toronto. Thompson’s genre is Americana, and that label has rarely sounded more apt than in the midst of this set of thinking-man’s blue-collar country-folk’n’roll.

Opener “These Days” is a standout, featuring a great hook, punchy piano chords over acoustic rhythm guitar and a propulsive beat, with lithe electric guitar lines painting the corners. Maybe the neatest trick on this full-bodied track is that there are actually only two players on it, with co-producer and virtual one-man band Chris Cubeta handling drums, bass, electric guitar, piano and backing vocals.

The meditative, primarily acoustic “Only In The Night” offers a pleasant interlude leading into the rollicking “Another Year ‘Round The Bend,” a full-tilt country boogie duet between Thompson and guest vocalist Julie Foster, who’s an Emmylou Harris-ish dynamo. Underneath all the fun lies a perceptive lyric about doing what you have to in order to live without regret.

Other highlights include the Man In Black-inspired honky-tonk number “Black Out Magik,” the appropriately sparky jangle-rock cut “Bottle Rocket” and the dreamy, almost psychedelic alt-country ballad “Juniper Haze.” (On a side note, I’ve just gotta ask, does Cubeta ever work with anyone who ISN’T phenomenally talented? Hmm, let’s see: Thompson, the Liars Club, Danny Lanzetta, Frank Carillo... guess not.)

In one final comparison, Joe Thompson reminds me of Mark McKay, another indie Americana artist who combines excellent songwriting with a strong sense of musicality and a kind of rich, organic appeal that hits you in the gut as much as the head. The Hunting & The Hope is an excellent start down what one hopes will be a long road for Thompson.

Rating: B+

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