Music Review: Joe Whyte – When The Day Breaks [Bridge & Tunnel Records]

There appears to be a resurgence of sorts of the modern troubadour. the male singer/songwriter armed with only an acoustic guitar and the stories he weaves always teetering on the precipice between  emotional authenticity and cloying sentimentality. The balance becomes even more precarious when you have pop leanings as the term “pop” has been severed from it’s root “popular” into something fleeting and vapid.

A well-crafted song defies genre. Whether it’s Sinatra’s I did It My Way or Willie Nelson’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain, there’s a craftsmanship that transcends and a balanced symmetry of sound and word. These types of songs also used to fall under the moniker of pop because they were “popular” not because they were reminiscent of sugary confection.

New Jersey based Joe Whyte’s new (FREE!) release, When The Day Breaks, is a slice of pop-Americana that straddles territory settled in the 70’s by pioneers like Gordon Lightfoot and Stephen Stills and currently being reshaped by the likes of the  Avett Brothers, Darrell Scott and Brice Robinson.

Rambling is the asphalt-hearted theme that runs through this release. The jangly channeling of Gram Parsons in the opener Please Believe Me portrays a sunny tempo belying the narrators compulsion to hit the  road and not allow anyone to fence him. It’s a Shame with its Dobro yawn supplies  a precisely suited accompaniment to reflect the dark dysfunction of a man destined to leave a caring woman knowing full well its the wrong thing to do,

This City is Alive has the narrator sit still in the City that Never Sleeps (sounding like a lost track from Elton John’s Tumbleweed Connection) yet fights the urge to escape before it steals the person he’s finally discovered he is. Off to War is a different kind of leaving. A soldier being deployed wants more then anything to be home with his family and his solemn ache is the strongest testament against an unjust war.

Blending a pop songwriters instinct for precision and hook with the warmth and authenticity in storytelling that are the trademarks of folk and country Whyte rescues the much maligned genre and gives it beauty and depth.

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