Revelations from Josh T. Pearson, last of the genuine country gentlemen
It matters not that Pearson focused on busking and drifting across western Europe and the isles, surfacing only once in the past decade with a (fitting) cover of Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and continuing to sit on a trove of unreleased material. In fleeing the horrors of Bush America, he reconnected with the traditions of his own soil and kinfolk (as slyly/sadly limned on the single, "Country Dumb") and went through them changes to fiercely mature as songcatcher and man. When he opens his record keening, crying that he is "off to save the world," he may be earnest and he might be clowning himself. It could just be the bravado of wishful drinkin', but it sho'nuff ain't purty aesthetic insincerity. I am bone-weary of Pan's musical sons capering in the glades, and the ever-cloning manchildren of indie-ana. Give me Brother Pearson's testimony and its rare, precious ability to trigger the full spectrum of human feeling.
The inevitable forthcoming hooptedoodle that results from Pearson's appearance at Austin's annual South by Southwest festival next week will determine how much of his vault comes to light and whether or not the amorphous-but-fervent digital cult that enshrined Lift to Experience and has awaited any new music with bated breath expands to a mass. However, I neither require consensus nor further laurels determining its future reception to claim that Last of the Country Gentlemen is a masterpiece. Especially when it seems possible that Brother Pearson could well disappear into Texas, never to record again. Or feel beckoned anew by the boomtown Berlin of our master satirist Californian bard Stew, and Pearson's fellow quester, the noted East Village African performance artist Krylon Superstar (a "breathaholic," as we all should be). He could pull a Josephine-with-her-leopards rather than remain here to help rebuild America(na) from the ashes.
I, the Indian watching from the deep dark woods as the settlers clash and struggle to resurrect themselves and their ideals from the heaven/hell of Bush's infinitely twisted New Jerusalem, am very grateful that Josh T. Pearson has boldly called himself out an American dreamer. He reminds me that I could be one, too, if I am brave enough to bleed. This is worth so much more than letter grades and lazy crit comparisons to this act or that, so expect none. Due to powers of inner vision and commitment, Pearson conjures the two other maverick artists who framed the past decade for me: my most-beloved white chocolate master, Lewis Taylor, from the United Kingdom, and still-undersung, Carolina-to-canyon folk visionary Jonathan Wilson. But he is virtually without peer. It takes a great deal now to summon me from the abyss. Truth alone.
Myself, still too blue to fly — yet there is great remedy and mystery to be gained from Josh the Revelator's Wild West revolution of the mind. I know you have heard the sounds of red, white, and blue footsteps scrawling in fear. You know intimately the disintegration of this earth. If only you have the ears to hear both the low lonesome and glory of "Sweetheart I Ain't Your Christ," wherein Pearson wrenches out, through rippling guitar, "You don't need a lover or a friend/ You need a savior/ And I am not him." Don't flinch when he sings from a land you're stranger to. Do not escape into the sunset — the brother needs you to openly and humbly step up as his amen corner, and welcome holy breath.
Josh T. Pearson will be making his solo debut at South by Southwest at three official performances — the first, Wed., March 16 at the Central Presbyterian Church in downtown Austin, should be the hot ticket