Lots of things make it seem as if Josh T. Pearson has been around forever. He first appeared on the radar with the formation of now defunct Texan cult outfit Lift to Experience, back around the turn of the century. Their one album – The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads – was a far out American concept album, full to the brim with Biblical and Christian references. Since the band have split, Pearson has floated eerily around the music scene, ever-present but not-quite-there, popping up with isolated singles and self recorded tracks.
But there are simpler things make you feel like he’s been around forever too – his mighty beard, his weary voice and the sparse, airily arranged country ballads he delivered on his solo debut, Last of the Country Gentlemen, earlier this year. Now his solo career has finally taken a proper shape, Pearson has cast himself as a lonely, world-wearied troubadour, sounding like a man who’s done his fair share of wandering. And he’s wandered right into Christmas.
I always looks for something new when a respectable artists covers Christmas songs, and there’s plenty to be found in Pearson’s take on “O Holy Night.” Just his voice and his guitar, the whole thing sounds like a tentative, quietly jubilant sigh of relief. It takes a lot to imbue Christmas carol lyrics with genuine emotion, but you can feel it in Pearson’s voice here. Raspy, light – it would be angelic if it didn’t sound so human. His lilting arrangement stretches the song out to 8 minutes, but it never once drags. Singer-songwriter types (deservedly, to a degree) get a bad rap these days, but there’s something genuinely captivating about Pearson here that most acoustic loners can only dream of achieving.
Josh T. Pearson // O Holy Night [mp3]