Joshua James: Downtrodden, But No Downer

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Thursday's Pick

  • Song: "The New Love Song"
  • Artist: Joshua James
  • CD: The Sun Is Always Brighter
  • Genre: Folk-Rock
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In "The New Love Song," Joshua James demonstrates a clear understanding of the vivid storytelling that defines folk music. courtesy of Joshua James hide caption

toggle caption courtesy of Joshua James

"The New Love Song," the opening track from Joshua James' debut album The Sun Is Always Brighter, is misleading at first. Its music sounds lighthearted and breezy, with an infectious "oh-oh-oh" chorus, but if you listen closely, its lyrics are anything but sunny: "Let's stop our busy lives a while / and think of the many, many people / across the many miles of earth / that have no clothes, no food to eat."

James specializes in lyrics that cut right through listeners with their sincerity and honesty. On The Sun Is Always Brighter, the Nebraska-born singer sings about everything from his younger brother's drug addiction to the war in Iraq to the Holocaust. But the disc is no downer: With a tender, scratchy voice that often cracks with emotion — and a clear understanding of the vivid storytelling that defines folk music — James commands attention effortlessly. Having opened for John Mayer, David Gray and The Swell Season at various points in the past year, this 25-year-old is proving to be more than just another promising singer-songwriter.

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