One of the side effects of the pop trends in country music in recent memory is the rise of copy cat artists willing to emulate the artists they hear on the radio, all in the hopes they can get rich and famous. But there’s another side effect that goes unnoticed by many. That side effect is inspiring independent artists to go in the opposite direction and churn out the best damn (real) country music they can make. Up and comer Josh Vincent would most certainly fit the latter description. On his site he says he has an agenda and that’s to make outlaw style country music. He received a guitar at an early from his father and has been playing it all his life, including during his career as a police officer. Now that’s he is retired from law enforcement, Vincent is now going after his dream to make country music. He makes his debut with his new EP Small Town Stuff.
The EP opens up with “Small Town Stuff,” a mid-tempo reflection on living the small town life. Vincent sings of the good like everyone knowing everybody and the bad like…everyone knowing everybody (which leads to gossip of course). It’s an accurate look at middle of America and the lives of the average person. Unlike small town songs you hear on the radio, this is grounded in reality. The production is good and catchy, although a bit quiet (understand though for an independent artist like Vincent). This is followed by “Hell Bent & Twisted.” Vincent sings of how his life was a mess before he met the love of his life. She took him in and made him a better person, a life worth singing about as the song says. It’s more on the rock side compared to the rest of the album, but mostly grounded in country. “So Much Shit” shows a more humorous side to Vincent, as he sings about discovering just how much shit he can buy on the Internet. He goes crazy buying stuff up left and right on the likes of Amazon and eBay. This is all fueled of course by a 30-pack of Keystone Light. He’s worried as hell when he goes to tell his wife that he spent all of their money, but finds out she has done the same. It’s a simple, yet fun and catchy song.
Vincent makes his feelings on pop country known on “We Ain’t (Pop) Country.” Now you know as well as I know that protest songs against mainstream country music have pretty much become as cliché as the themes they mock. However this song stood out to me from the other endless protest songs out there because of how Vincent makes a point of how people in middle America are no longer country. He sings of the real lives the everyday person experiences and how that’s just how it is for them. They don’t do it because it makes them country. Not to mention the song makes it a point of how mainstream country no longer relates and connect with the working person. And that makes this a pretty good protest song. Small Town Stuff closes with “Two Shots.” It’s about a man playing a poker game at a beer tavern and realizing he isn’t exactly being dealt a fair hand. So he gets up to leave, but the man at the door won’t let him leave unless he pays up. This leads to the man shooting his way out and heading out to Mexico to hide out. Eventually he decides to go back home to get his stuff only to find his wife in bed with another man. Once again he uses his gun out of anger and heads on back to Mexico. It should be noted of course the man is not proud of what he has done and knows he has to live with the murders he has committed. What I like about this song is not only how well it’s crafted, but reminds me a lot of the old songs of the outlaw era that dealt with serious situation like this (think Johnny Cash’s “I Shot a Man in Reno”). I would say it’s my favorite of the EP.
While Small Town Stuff is a little rough around the edges and isn’t the smoothest of listens, I think it demonstrates the potential that lies in Josh Vincent. With this really being the formal beginning of Vincent’s career, he’s only going to get better with more time and experience. He clearly knows the music he wants to make and I think with more seasoning as a songwriter could blossom into a pretty great artist. I especially enjoy how he mixes up the themes throughout the EP, giving a glimpse into both serious and less serious subjects. Small Town Stuff is a good start for Vincent and I think he’s an artist worth keeping an eye on.