Review Summary: Pearson does the same thing, only different.
Josh T. Pearson presents a challenging picture. He is - at the same time - utterly crushing and powerfully cathartic. He's overbearing, depressing and uplifting in the same breath.
As a result, on 'Country Gentlemen', he is totally unafraid of scraping the bottom of the pathos barrel; he does so masterfully. The seven songs here chronicle the time in between his bands' 'The Texas Jerusalem Crossroads' and this solo effort. It's clear that it was a tough break.
There is a great deal of beauty to be found in Pearson's raw emotion. The unrequited love presented in 'Honeymoon's Great: Wish You Were Her', for example, or the shreds of anger and guilt in 'Woman, When I've Raised Hell...', and the regret in 'Country Dumb'. In fact, the emotional themes are so clear that they really do speak for themselves. The beauty of this album is that its ideas are universal and unmistakable. Everyone can relate, at least in part, to what Pearson is saying.
Apart from his emotion, by employing traditional 'country' motifs, and mixing them with his distinctive individual style, Pearson creates a truly 'alternative' country sound. But this is nothing new. He takes the veiled heartbreak of old-school country and allows it to exist uncovered. In this sense, his work fits in perfectly with the existing country or folk, or blues, canons. 'Woman, When I've Raised Hell...' could be Coley Jones' 'Drunkard's Special'; most of these songs could be Hank Williams' 'Cold, Cold Heart', and so on.
Deriding this album because of its heavy emotional baggage is missing the point. Pearson has created an album that is conservative yet progressive; downtrodden yet cathartically unrestrained. Ultimately, that's something worth being happy about.