JOSEPH HUBER – TONGUES OF FIRE
2012 – Self Released
This hugely talented multi instrumentalist, singer and songwriter from the ‘real country music’ field is a former member of the now defunct but extraordinary, .357 String Band, which also included the talents of Jayke Orvis
in it’s lineup. In many ways they were a modern day Uncle Tupelo, with their roots in punk and coming to country music by osmosis! The problem is that, again like Uncle Tupelo, there was just too much talent within the constraints of the band and so they eventually imploded. It would be nice to think the four will work together again, but who knows. If joseph Huber carries on making albums with the degree of originality and expertise that he brings to this one, that becomes less likely. This new recording is so different to his almost unbearably dark debut ‘Bury me where I
fall’ and whilst that was excellent this new album is even better. It is certainly not particularly light, just perhaps more realistic and certainly less dark.
He is an amazing multi instrumentalist, known for his virtuoso banjo playing, but he is at least as adept on the fiddle and whilst playing other instruments on this album those two added to his warm, expressive, classic alt. country vocals are what gives these evocative stories their ‘high lonesome’ signature sound. On the previous album, despite it’s musicality, everything was
harrowingly dark and full of pessimism whereas on this one although it is certainly not full of optimism, at least there is an acceptance of the world in which he finds himself. The sound quality is better than on his debut, with both being pretty much home recordings, and he plays all of the instruments on this fairly sparse album that blends the high lonesomeness of bluegrass, a dark old
timey feel and an alt. country attitude all played with incredible expertise, commitment and feeling. He has always been a high quality songwriter with his descriptive, almost poetic style producing some believable tales of lost love, travelling and poverty, with an often sad lonely, old timey atmosphere.
Album opener Fell off the Wagon, is as the title suggests the tale of someone who finds solace in alcohol thanks to a lost love, a song that is driven along by his accomplished banjo playing and given a mournful ‘what if’ feeling by his tremendous vocals. Drop in the Bucket, has an almost classic old timey instrumentation with fiddle, banjo, guitar and added bass on a terrific song that perfectly evokes the itinerant street musician, all done with a high lonesome sound. It is strongly evocative of the ‘old timey’ days long gone, thanks to the atmosphere his tremendous vocal, banjo and fiddle playing brings to this gorgeous song that has a strangely cinematic ambience. Hello Milwaukee is an incredibly detailed tale of a man who leaves those he loves to travel across America but finds that the lure of home is always there. More gorgeous fiddle and banjo with his haunting and haunted vocals that are able to draw every drop of emotion out of virtually every song he sings. An Old Mountain Tune, is summed up by it’s title and thanks to his vocals, fiddle and banjo, actually conjures up the feeling of an old front porch ballad as does Burden on the Wind,with his eerily treated vocals and excellent acoustic guitar sound that meanders along with an atmospheric banjo break adding to the haunting atmosphere.
There are few, if any, better songwriters than Joseph Huber in this broad generic field and when you add the fact that his warmly expressive vocals are of the same calibre with his ability to create an incredibly evocative atmosphere, allied to his virtuosity on several different instruments, given a little promotion his talent should take care of the rest! There are not too many artists that have been involved in several albums by a band plus two albums of their own that have all contained an equal quality and no little originality as Joseph Huber. I’m already eagerly anticipating his next