Nearly all who live in the west feel a deep-rooted connection to the wild and the varying landscapes that encompass it. In his self-titled sophomore LP, Joseph Childress aims to articulate the sense of prideful ownership that westerners feel toward their land. He returns with the same acoustic, minimalistic style of the home-recordings we were first introduced to in Rebirth, adding focus and a strong thematic scheme to the album’s structure that was absent in his initial debut.
Appropriately titled “My Land,” Childress opens his latest record with an ode to his days working on a Montana farm. The San Francisco transplant delivers a compelling sense of longing for the wild and breathtaking countryside he was raised in, singing of vibrant sunsets and endless golden fields of wheat. His voice has a controlled shakiness to it that resonates with genuine emotion as he weaves through the multiple melodies within each track, all of which cycle through immensely satisfying resolutions. The album’s cyclical nature lends itself to an occasionally monotonous undertone, as it steadily thumps through several down-tempo instrumental sections. This is wholly compensated for by the record’s standout hits, “Virginia Bound,” “Whispering Tide,” and “11 Mile Canyon,” which give much needed texture and diversity to the 10 song collection.
Joseph Childress is reminiscent of Neil Young’s Harvest, or Leonard Cohen’s Songs of Love and Hate. Childress is certainly taking a step forward from his first release, but he also seems to be rebooting his image and stamping this record as his true debut. His message is consistent through every track, making this his first coherent body of work. Lyrically, Childress is painting a picture for us to take in, permeating visions of open space and wilderness yet to be explored by our ears. Listeners hear a young musician desperate to further investigate his potential as an artist, one who has much more to say, and all the time and resources he needs to say it properly.