Album Review – “Neon Blue” by Joshua Hedley

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He is known as Mr. Jukebox. Some also consider him the mayor of Lower Broadway, a nickname he earned from his long-term residence at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. He’s the fiddler-player, honky-tonk-singing, country-music native of Florida named Joshua Hedley, and he knows the ins and outs of country music more than anyone for having devoted his life to hours and hours of performances on Robert’s Western World. arrange.

With his 2018 album Mr Jukebox, Joshua Hedley has set up a veritable clinic of classic country music in the modern context, throwing it back to the golden age of country in a way that has made everything so oddly correct, from the tone of the guitars to the inflections in the turns. sentences, down to the seams of his Nudie suit. It was certainly a niche project, and more imitative than original. But it underscored Hedley’s mastery as a performer of older country music.

Four years have passed since then, with some fans getting restless for more of Hedley’s classic country singing, but he’s thrown a curveball by modernizing his approach in those four years by roughly four decades on his new album. neon blue. As Joshua Hedley explains, the 90s were really the last time a listener could turn on the radio and distinctly hear the difference between the country station and everything else. So that’s the era he embraced this time.

’90s country is also very much in vogue right now, both as a beneficiary of the 25-year-old retro/nostalgia cycle, and as a time many listeners seek refuge in as modern country continues to struggle. serve the public. Just as careful and intentional to get every detail of the era exactly as his previous record, Joshua Hedley delivers a transportive and immersive experience on neon blue like few others, taking the listener into a decidedly cooler era of country music than ours today.

Simply, neon blue is a breath of a listen. It’s not just the nostalgic joy songs like “Neon Blue” and “Broke Again” give you that are straight out of the Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn era, it’s the kind of simple, almost innocent sentimentality found in the writing of songs like “Free” and “Found in a Bar” that bring immediate affection to this music steeped in memory and just a hint of melancholy.

And while the 90s had a distinct sound that grew out of choosing guys like guitarist Brent Mason and steel player Paul Franklin, it was also the last time you heard a country song that sounded like it would have could have been written many previous years. So when it comes to songwriting, “90s country” really encompasses a much broader era of influence.

Aside from the pure songwriters of our time like Arlo McKinley or John R. Miller, those who can best convey to modern country music that country is inherently cliché. Instead of fighting against it, they embrace it, work within that boundary, and exploit it for the entertainment value and insight that can be found there. It’s one of the many things Josh Hedley does on neon blue it makes this album not just another retro country record. He’s obviously self-aware and clever in the way he tackles otherwise overused and overworked themes.

On neon blueJosh Hedley proves he’s not just “Mr. Jukebox,” or a perennial Lower Broadway performer. As he sings on the second track of this record, “I’m a singing, country and western teacher.” Deeply researched and truly gifted at expressing the multitude of styles that made up the vast and omnivorous country era of the 90s, Joshua Hedley has transformed himself into a modern country marvel, capable of covering any piece of music from any country music era and make it sing. .

Well done, Mr. Hedley.

1 3/4 raised guns (8.5/10)

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