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JOSHUA HEDLEY Mr Jukebox gets 10/10

Joshua Hedley
Mr Jukebox
Third Man Records

10/10

Joshua Hedley is a country music savant. The burly singer has a residency at Robert’s Western World in Nashville where he plays to the drunks and stragglers into the wee hours of the morning. The marathon weekly session sees him sneak in some of his originals, which aren’t at all out of place amongst the endless requests for country standards. Hedley has an encyclopedic knowledge of the genre that ensures he never skips a beat.

Hedley has been a gun for hire as a fiddle player that has seen him as part of Justin Townes Earle’s touring band, but his tales about hearts that have been stomped on are the staple of his debut album, released by Jack White’s Third Man Records. Hedley announces himself as a classic country champion from the get-go with Counting All My Tears telling about the pit in the stomach that comes with reacquainting oneself with the partner who has moved on. Mr Jukebox is a brief change in mood as it captures his endless nights at Robert’s where a tip bucket of nickels and dimes was what kept bread on his table during the leaner years.

Hedley picked up a fiddle at 8 years of age and was playing with grizzled veterans before he hit his teen years, but he didn’t start writing his own material until he was in his late 20s. It has clearly been a flurry of activity since then, as Mr Jukebox doesn’t have a weak moment. The highlight though is Weird Thought Thinker with Hedley putting on a rich drawl to augment his swinging tune about rambling.

There isn’t an emotion that Hedley can’t evoke with a voice that could put him amongst the greats. There is a fair tip of the hat to Cash and Campbell through the journey, with even a Kristofferson like spoken word moment thrown in for good measure. When You Wish Upon A Star is a tribute to his father who passed away three years ago without seeing his son get the record deal he had been craving, and the adoration that has followed. Under the circumstances you would expect the tune to be somber, but at Hedley’s hand it is nothing short of triumphant.

Joshua Hedley has the history of country music in his bones, and the future in his voice and at his fingertips. Make no mistake, Mr Jukebox is the real deal.

CHRIS HAVERCROFT

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