Release Date: Oct 11, 2011
Record label: Yep Roc
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Pop/Rock
Now that he's used to living a double life as a musician and a novelist (publishing three books under his given name, Wesley Stace), John Wesley Harding has become more comfortable with leaving his most serious side on the printed page, and while his tenth studio album, The Sound of His Own Voice, shows he still has a point of view and no shyness about expressing it, from a musical standpoint, this is one of his most engaging pieces of pop songcraft since he burst onto the scene with Here Comes the Groom in 1989. Scott McCaughey (who played on Harding's 2009 effort, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead) co-produced The Sound of His Own Voice with the singer and songwriter, and he brought in an impressive variety of collaborators for these sessions, including Peter Buck, Rosanne Cash, and John Moen, Chris Funk, Jenny Conlee, and Nate Query of the Decemberists, and the results are beautifully crafted and entertainingly eclectic, encompassing the jaunty folk-rock of "Uncle Dad," the nervy rock & roll of "Calling Off the Experiment," the R&B underpinnings of "I Should Have Stopped," and the epic scale finale "The World in Song. " Harding's literary efforts have helped hone his already impressive gifts as a lyricist, but while his storytelling is sharp and his wordplay more than clever, he's gained an appreciation for human vulnerabilities that give these songs a warmth even when he points a deserving finger, and his lyrics dovetail well with the expansive (but never overbearing) production and arrangements.
When John Wesley Harding arrived on the music scene in 1990, he probably expected to be called the New Dylan. After all, every singer-songwriter who followed in Dylan’s wake got that treatment. Harding even wrote a song for his debut album in which he preemptively declared, “Bob Dylan is my father / Joan Baez is my mother / And I am their bastard son.” So, it must have been disappointing when, instead, he was declared the New Elvis Costello.