Country with jazz overtones? Bluegrass dancing with ‘70s piano-pop? It’s really hard to characterize Josh Small’s music, but few banjos have seen as many city lights as the that’s played on Tall, Small’s debut album. Easily ranked right up with the link-minded Backyard Tire Fire, Small displays an affinity for Sufjan-esque backwoods melodicism (the great “Arc de Triumph” which inexplicably turns into a sensational piano rocker during its last 30 seconds) and Pete Seeger folk-classicism (“Knife in My Belly”) in equal measures. Yet Small’s ace-in-the-sleeve remains his lyrics, which can occasionally dip into genre cliché, but more often than not simply knock you out (especially the lines “Well it seems my confessions / Sound more like impressions / Of the beautiful plays on the words” on “My Confessions”). While some may say that the banjo is nothing but a cornball instrument in these modern times, Josh Small is out to prove that the banjo—in fact—has a beautiful, weeping soul.
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