|Nearly a decade ago as we were both college kids at different campuses connected by I-35, I first met and heard Josh Grider.|
At the time, he was playing in his college band, Riverside, at Baylor and I was running around San Marcos with Randy Rogers and Doug Moreland when I wasn’t working the door at River Road Icehouse in New Braunfels. I saw them open up some shows for people across the state and play some dives back in the hometown whenever I was there…and I always came away impressed. A couple years down the road, Riverside split up and Grider went solo. It was around this time period that his first record came out and I coined him as Dave Matthews meets Merle Haggard. This description proved so apt, that it is still used to describe him. The thing that’s always captivated me about Grider’s music is the depth and breadth of influence, sound and soul that permeate each second of each song. This is not your regular, GCDC honky-tonk. This is blues-infused, Beatles-inspired music. When Grider gave me the advance copy of this album, Sweet Road to Ride, he told me that it represented a full circle encompassing of all his influences and that I’d be able to pick out landmarks from every stop on his musical journey. He was right.
Produced by Mark Addison (Band of Heathens, Guy Forsyth),who is rapidly becoming the go-to producer for Texas artists serious about adding some weighty soul to their lone star brew, Sweet Road to Ride is an outstanding musical representation of its title. While being a trip down Josh’s musical history, this album is also a tour de force of Generation X musical influences with hints of Sublime, Nirvana and Pink Floyd intermingling freely with those of Robert Earl Keen, vintage Pat Green and Bob Schneider. Lyrically the themes are what you’d expect on an Americana recording: love, the road, love lost, and drinking among others. Yet, it’s in the music and melody that Grider’s always found his own space for originality. Since shaping his live show into a trio experience with himself on lead guitar, Grider’s guitar playing has evolved into quite the tasty complement to his rapid fire melodies. Expertly backed on the recording by his road band of Jeff Botta (drums/vocals) and Chris Grady (bass/vocals), Grider has created a musical adventure on this album that sounds as if Jack Johnson and Chris Isaak made a record backed by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Deep, rolling rhythm pockets mix with tight harmonies that would make those in the bluegrass world jealous.
“Over My Head” has a guitar riff that sounds like sunshine on a spring day and a catchy, harmonious chorus that will leaving you humming it hours after you last heard it. “While You Were Sleeping” has elements of Jason Mraz, but it is entirely Grider’s creation. It’s the standard tale of breaking up due to the troubadour’s life on the road, but with Grider’s near trademark unique lyrical twists thrown in. “Love Went Wrong” is a re-working from Grider’s Million Miles To Go album and this updated version finds the Trio grooving heavier and darker on this honky-tonk tear jerker on acid. “Halfway There” has a bass line that is eerily reminiscent of a mash-up of two 80’s classics: Ray Parker’s “Ghostbusters” and Ricky Skaggs “Heartbroke”. This tune features the most experimentation in both vocal delivery and musical accompaniment as it features flares of rap, bluegrass, salsa and Tejano.
This album is definitely the summation of a young songwriter from New Mexico growing into a road weary father and husband now residing in the Texas Hill Country. Years of riding down roads sweet and sour all over the United States supporting various formations of his musical dreams have enabled Josh Grider to further refine his unique take on music that is equal parts country, pop, rock and blues. If you are looking for a fresh batch of songs that do not sound like anything else you’re probably listening to, definitely pick this one up. Another superb album from the mind, soul and heart of Josh Grider. What you hear is what he’s lived for the past ten years.
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