Josh Bray: Whisky & Wool - Album of the Month - February 2011

~ Monday, 7 February 2011
Devon born troubadour Bray treads a familiar path with his debut long player. The Nick Drake influences just can't be ignored but Bray shares more in common with Boo Hewerdine and Ray Lamontagne with his affected Americana tinged folk and proves he is more than capable of holding his own. As a self confessed metal head in his youth, Bray's sound could not be any further removed from that genre. The warmth of the production is all enveloping as the acoustic based songs cast a hypnotic spell that had me happy to sit, head back, eyes closed and just wallow in its beauty. He is also in possession of a voice with a distinct tone which is coupled with refreshingly perfect diction.

Album opener The River Song is a meandering slice of Americana that can't help but bring comparisons with Ray Lamontagne in both its feel and Brays vocal delivery. This is no bad thing but those comparisons are soon dispelled with the arrival of Rise. A beautifully structured song that really frees Brays voice to show its full potential. The previously mentioned Nick Drake influence is nowhere more apparent as on Bigger Than The Both Of Us. Bray uses an open tuning to full effect on this track to give the guitar picking a rhythmical feel while his voice and the overlaid strings provide the melody.

This is a mighty fine album from start to finish but there are a few tracks that really do stand out. Hard Living has a slightly dirtier sound than anything else on the record and really is a seriously brilliant song in the mould of The Kevin McDermott Orchestra. Indian Gin is another song that touches on his rockier side and is destined to become part of my soundtrack for the forthcoming summer months (or possibly weeks given the British summer).

I seriously like this album. It has a vibe that works. From the songwriting to the arrangements and the playing to the production it is a triumph. I will be amazed if this is not all over radio 2 and Bray is not a star by this time next year. For my money it is the best album I've heard so far this year.

[][][][][] (5/5)