In Josh Thompson, working-class country has found its most authentic spokesman in a generation. A compelling singer, he is an artist whose songwriting reflects both the gritty realities of blue-collar life and the beer-fueled release of the Friday-night honky-tonk.
There is no doubt about his work ethic, which was perhaps most evident in the days when he was juggling the publishing deal he earned just seven months after moving to Nashville and the trade he had worked at since he was 12.
"I was still pouring concrete three days a week," he says. "A lot of times I'd start at 7, then wash off with a garden hose and head to a writing appointment. Some nights I'd write songs until 2:30, get up at 6, splash some water on my face and do it again."
That work ethic, the honesty in his writing and the energy in his performances have combined to make Josh a powerful new voice in country music. Thompsons Columbia Nashville debut, Way Out Here, showcases the man who has lived the music he makes.
Way Out Here, above all, shows Thompsons personal journey through the landscape of the people whose love and loss, living and dying have fueled the best of country music. At its core are "who I am" songs that define the salt-of-the-earth characters whose concerns Josh knows and relates so well--"Name In This Town" is a look at the place of reputation and identity in a small community; "I've Always Been Me" is a man owning his own good and bad, taking pride in the authenticity he brings to living; "You Ain't Seen Country Yet" waves its allegiance to country life proudly; and "Way Out Here," the album's title cut, takes the listener as far back into backwoods life as it's possible to go.
Romance gets varied treatment, from "Won't Be Lonely Long," a hell-raiser about being dumped as the gateway to a great Friday night, and "I Won't Go Crazy," a waltz about staying sane that wears its sense of irony proudly, to "Back Around, a tender look at a young couple discovering love. "Blame It On Waylon" brings a heavy backbeat and outlaw attitude to a song that probes the origins of everything from Josh's scars to his personality. Then, from opposite ends of the spectrum, two of the CD's most affecting songs are "Sinner" and "Beer on the Table." "Sinners" is a nakedly honest song about the nature of sin, grace and redemption, a powerful and affecting piece of work. "Beer on the Table" is one of the most down-to-earth working man's anthems in years, a look at the dance between work and play, and the hard-won, easy-go nature of money that ties them together.
Produced by Michael Knox (Jason Aldean), the CD captures both the emotional nuance that marks Josh's work and the raucous energy that sparks his live performances.
Before the release of his own album, Josh was best known for penning the title cut to Jason Michael Carroll's latest album, "Growing Up is Getting Old." The song was one of several played for Sony Music Nashville execs by pluggers at Josh's publishing company, and their reaction to his voice and the strength of the songs earned him a meeting with label chief Joe Galante and A&R head Renee Bell.
"I played them four songs," says Josh, "and an hour or so later Renee called and said, 'How would you like a record deal?' I said, 'Are you serious?' She said she was, and after the screaming was done, I said yes."