If you grew up listening to John Mayer riffing on his electric guitar, expressing heartfelt lyrics with that bluesy swagger, you will love Joseph Strummer. He comes across as the genuine article, an artist who is getting started and could really do some amazing things with just a touch more production help. But what we love about Strummer is that he has the goods to be a highly successful singer songwriter. This opening salvo Rise and Shine is a great introduction to a bright rising star.
Sometimes the cracks in Strummer’s voice on “Thief” reminds me of a similar singer songwriter, Zach Deputy. Strummer has a cool, easy style about him that comes through on this track about someone stealing his heart. The imagery works well, falling in love with a thief because she stole his heart. The electric guitar has a nice resonance on it that works really well with Strummer’s vocal quality. Even though this track isn’t on the album, it’s a great introduction to his sound and the album Rise and Shine.
Although the album is dated, since Strummer won the contest for his track “Thief” we’ll go ahead and review the older album. The opener “These Hard Times” could be an anthem for the post-recession times. There are some obvious faith-based comments here, so it might not be for everyone. However, it is a really interesting song that moves along melodically and peacefully. “Lord of Everything” is a blatant 90s style worship song. There’s even the layered chorus style that reminds me of older bands like Point of Grace. It’s definitely not the more modern indie singer songwriter vibe of “Thief.”
“Holy Love” still has a spiritual direction, but uses more of a downtempo electronic style to it. Strummer seems to cast his net widely, trying to employ different sonic strategies to deliver his message. The song “I need you” again has the atmospheric praise song style. It reminds me of something from that late 90s CCM world. I can imagine hearing this song on a radio station like The Fish. It’s definitely family friendly pop-influenced faith music. The track “Follow Me” goes in yet another direction. The first band it made me think of was Chevelle. There are some semi grungy guitars and an alt rock lead vocal that feels like it could be someone completely different. That said, this is one of my favorite versions of Strummer on this variegated collection.
The simple acoustic song “His” sounds like something you might hear at your summer camp. Imagine the counselor, complete with a bandana and a Nalgene bottle, strumming this song about providential love. It’s subtle and quaint, lyrically delivering a similar message as the other tracks on the album. Sticking with the acoustic guitar for the next one, “Closer” has a kind of Jack Johnson vibe to it. The song’s beat will have you moving in your chair. The song “Dry Bones” reflects the familiar story of Ezekiel from the Bible. The song’s structure is a bit like mid 90s hip hop music, with a funky syncopation. The final track “Don’t Call Off the Search” strums along nicely, showing off Stummer’s vocals in a completely different way.
This album is quite different than the song “Thief” that won our contest. We’re looking forward to following Strummer take on this new direction from “Thief” in a longer album. Plumbing the depths of greater lyrical diversity and deeper themes might bode well for future musical endeavors. Emulating the John Mayer style seems to be a bit of a wheelhouse for Strummer, so we’re hoping that is the direction for his next effort.