John Wesley Harding
The Sound of His Own Voice
(Yep Roc Records)
With more than a dozen releases under his belt, John Wesley Harding certainly has had a career worth envying. The Sound of His Own Voice is another triumph, with Harding’s storytelling skills coming to life as vividly as within in his novels.
One of the brilliant aspects of Harding’s albums is that he’s often joined by talented guests. For this record, the singer/songwriter is accompanied by The Decemberists as his backing band, and there are also some brilliant cameos by Rosanne Cash, Peter Buck (formerly of R.E.M.), and Scott McCaughey.
Though English, Harding has a sound that’s richly tinged with Americana. His alt image is toned down by pop sensibility. For instance, a track like “There’s a Starbucks (Where the Starbucks Used to Be)” could come off sounding bitter, but Harding packs a meaningful message about capitalism into a catchy, upbeat song.
Likewise, “Captain Courageous (On Disko Island)” is a triumphant and humorous celebration of an imaginary character. We don’t need to know or be able to relate to Captain Courageous to be entertained by him. That lighthearted humor is an essential part of Harding’s album, such as on “I Might Be Dead”: “I might be dead for all you notice me / I might be dead, son of a bitchery.”
Comfortable in his skin and capable of orchestrating great collaborations, John Wesley Harding is sure of his craft and delivers on that confidence. The Sound of His Own Voice is infectious, amusing, and packed with wisdom if you can stop tapping your foot to it.