Joshua Black Wilkins does not provide a soundtrack for the lighthearted, for carefree
summer days spent idling away on bar terraces and flippant love. But for the changing season, subtle chills and the seriousness of early sundowns, Wilkins holds, over a decade of making music, a tight and formidable reign.
A resident of East Nashville since the early 2000’s, Wilkins infuses his outlaw country music with the ghosts of an old urban slot that used to permeate our city, and still survive in its outer corners. Though he came to Nashville with a rockabilly band, he quickly proved the seriousness of his sound, an ability to merge heartland Americana with the perks of nineties grunge. In every piece of art that Wilkins dictates- whether a track or a photograph- there exists a rumbling piece of a perseverant past.
2014’s Settling The Dust is no exception to this element of macabre resurrection. Through each of the album’s ten tracks, the musicianship stands emblematic of a lonesome dust bowl landscape; the album remains cohesive in its dark and rusty themes. More comforting than kitschy, Wilkins’ voice endures in its distinction, a smoky roughness that growls through darker emotions. The first track off the album, “Late Night Talks,” sets the scene for the progressive solitude of the album; the character packs up his chevy, sullenly noticing the missing bibles, defeated sports teams, and busted marquis signs, his own forlornness on the road complementing a lonely America.
“New York or Louisiana” is the pinnacle track of the album; a slow number rooted in the shadowy noir of missing someone, loaded with images of sooty barstools, pervasive longing, and love-lost disorientation. Its simplicity draws upon a moody requiem of surrender; the song encapsulates the ghosts of the dead and gone still cackling through our present-day minds.
It’s in the title track that we get a reprieve from Wilkin’s cathartic sounds of solitude; the song boasts an up-tempo, bluesy rock that feels more collective in its contents than the more somber notes in the album. “We’re all just settling dust, ’til the right one comes along,” Wilkins sings, and it’s in these raw, simple metaphors that the singer-songwriter’s lyrical prowess shines most brightly.