It is an interesting time in the acoustic solo, singer-songwriter camp these days. As a genre it is probably the oldest format, with a historical thread that weaves through pub singers, itinerant troubadours, court minstrels and back through time. It is also a genre filled with imposters, a seemingly fast track route for all those Ed Sheeran wannabes thinking “how hard can it be?” as they knock out another three chord Dylan rip off and wait for Simon Cowell to come a-calling. But it is a genre with a wonderful resurgence going on at the moment, as the likes of Frank Turner managed to prise open the door left slightly ajar by Billy Bragg, a whole bunch of wonderful, wandering songsters and impassioned gypsy guitar-slingers also found a way through and Joe McCorriston is part of that wave.
Sick and Sand is a wonderful collection of honest thoughts and anecdotal stories from a man trying to make his way through a lifestyle where the rewards are more spiritual, emotional and social than financial, a subject explored in songs such as The Dirty Game and Four Months. The wonderfully named Cardboard is Heavy Sometimes is the perfect sideswipe at the overt poeticism of some songwriters and we get a slice of acute soul searching via Never Let The Demons Win.
You could make an argument to say that there isn’t much more that can be done with the simple format of a voice and an acoustic guitar, which may be true but that would be missing the point and the point is it’s all about how good the songs are – Joe has some great songs and it is this stripped back format that show cases that perfectly. No tricks or musical frippery, just unreconstructed, raw guitar lines and stories of his life, the album sounds just like the live show and so is the perfect advert for what he actually does out in the real world.
Next time you see a guitarist wrestling songs and sentiment from a well travelled old acoustic in the corner of the pub, spare a thought for these sofa surfing, musical road warriors who entertain for little more than petrol money or a place to stay overnight, in a way they are all Joe McCorriston, they are all part of the fight back against style over substance and TV talent shows. And buy a CD before you leave, not doing so means that the music terrorists win!