If you are someone who thinks newer artists don’t make good music anymore, I will tell you that you aren’t looking hard enough. If you haven’t heard of Cody Jinks yet I can’t imagine you’ve done any digging and if you haven’t heard of Sturgill Simpson by now I don’t think you really even want to hear new music. The artist I’m writing about today though is Josh Morningstar. I found it fitting that the first person that I write about be someone I can call a friend and have DJ’d for (since that is the main focus of this page) but also the hardest working person I know.
When I first met him four years ago he was sitting on a kick-drum with a tambourine duct taped to his left boot while playing guitar and singing literally almost any song the audience could think to yell out. He did that for four hours at a time, only taking one or two 10-15minute breaks, 100 times a year. Today, he’s normally backed by a band that goes by The Pickups and he’s doing up to 300 shows a year. At one point, fairly recently, he was doing a show every Tuesday in Nashville, every Wednesday in Maryland, then Fridays and Saturdays he’d almost always be on the road anywhere in a radius that regularly extends as far as Illinois to Georgia, and be back in Maryland for a weekly Sunday show. In addition to his insane schedule he still manages to do a live online show at least five days a week. While juggling all that he’s also constantly writing new songs; eight of which were on his new album Whole Lotta Crazy that he somehow found the studio time for. Find me anyone else putting that kind of time into their craft.
Speaking of his new album; Whole Lotta Crazy is his best yet. Backed by his regular band, four seconds into music starting on the first and title track (after the George Jones and Johnny Cash intro) it starts pouring the steel guitar into that empty spot today’s radio leaves inside you. The song draws you in and the band capitalizes each sentence differently, whether it’s another killer guitar riff by Bobby, a string break while Eric pummels his drums and symbols, or Greg dumping more of that pedal steel on, all while Michelle blends them smoothly with her bass guitar. There isn’t a song on it that isn’t great but other than the title track, my two favorites are Damn These Birds and Melody. In a beautiful analogy “these birds” are his past drug dealers and the song is full of almost hidden poetic lines like “I flew off on broken wings” while describing leaving one of these birds. The other song, Melody, I can’t say enough about. Every line of this song sounds like poetry from the mind of Kris Kristofferson. Every single word of this song will tear at your heart a little in a way that not a single word can be removed. Imagine a pyramid made of playing cards, each with a word from Melody on it, completing the pyramid. If you remove a card, the whole thing falls because they’re leaning on each other but if you try to add a card the whole thing will fall because there is nowhere to put it that works. Melody is already perfect.
The best way to experience Josh’s music though, as I’d tell you about any other real artist, is in person. In person you can almost feel what he felt when he wrote the song. You can see it in his face. If it’s a song that means something to him, he won’t see you while he’s singing it. I don’t think he sees anything in the room because if you look into his eyes while he sings you can see he’s staring at the demon the song was written about. You can almost feel the demon in the room while Josh and it are locked into each other’s eyes. Most nights you can hear in his voice that he’s telling the demon that he beat him in life and the song is to remind the demon of that. Other nights, by Josh’s face and voice, it seems the demon is advising him that he hasn’t won yet and Josh is singing to remind himself of that. No matter the night, it’s powerful and it’s a good time. If you aren’t supporting the guys like this by buying their music and/or attending their shows, then you have blood on your hands from music row.