Justin Golden – Hard Times and A Woman
My hands are on my head because this young artist starts his set with a great song “Can’t Get Right,” but why with such a great blues voice, with great tone — why oh why is it drenched in echo or treated studio vocal hocus pocus? That’s the only thing I feel diminishes the impact. The performance is stellar, the musicians have an effective punch. Justin’s voice possesses vintage perfection for blues. Lose the vocal treatment.
It continues to better effect on “Ain’t Just Luck,” because this sounds more vintage 60s blues with a soaring harmonica & lead guitar. Justin Golden has the goods, but I get frustrated when decisions are made to enhance & embellish that deter from the genre. Muddy Waters hated his Electric Mud LP for almost the same reasons.
Hard Times and A Woman (Drops April 15–Independent) is 12-surprisingly good modern solid blues cuts produced by Chip Hale (Bass/Percussion/Electric & Acoustic Guitars/Rhodes/Backing Vocals) — that are curiously impactful & could’ve been even more so if the effects were less. Golden has the voice to carry the tunes more traditionally & powerfully if it was provided as a pure blues.
Richmond, Virginia’s Justin Golden fingerpicks his acoustic with bluesiana that’s delicious. He also plays Electric Guitar, Resonator Guitar & Percussion. With him are Benjamin Hunter (Fiddle), Nate Hubbard (Electric Guitar/BV/Percussion), Drew Barnocky (Drums/BV), Tyler Meacham (Organ/BV), Tommy Booker (Organ/Wurlitzer/Piano), Eli Hubbard (Banjo/BV/Baritone Guitar/Percussion/BV), Andrew Alli (Harmonica), & Lance Koehler (Percussion/BV). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79-Nw4vt9jc
Golden is adept with his performance that’s all-deliberate phrases of beauty through his country blues (ala Taj Mahal on “Moon Far Away” & “Oh Lord, Oh Lord” — great stuff). Americana, soul, indie roots, Piedmont blues with simple calculated emotional heft.
The fuzzed guitar is fine, the fiery leads with precision depicting the harsh realities minorities experience but not with any spiteful twists (“The Gator” is a great rocker too). That’s fine, music is all about expressing oneself — getting a message across clearly.
Some songs are a little “hot” at least the ones I heard (“Pulling Weight”), bass-heavy & many applications of that treated vocal approach. Too much salt in an otherwise great recipe. “Lightening When She Smiles,” is vivid. Except for the points I made. The song is well-written & accessible. Some words are distorted. Effects are only good when used sporadically.
Justin has a tight hold on interpreting the blues in a genuine modern manner. What’s admirable is that even though he’s capable he doesn’t come across as retro. He’s adapted the vintage tradition to suit his own exciting style. “If I Keep It Together,” is as close to Golden’s vocals without vocal treatment as there is.
The set is quite good. Could’ve been great. The music’s reliable despite the criticism & Justin is worth the listen. Color photo by: Joey Wharton. CD available @ Bandcamp – https://justingolden.bandcamp.com/