Toronto native Josh Taerk (pronounced Turk) is a new name to me but, with heavy-hitting support on his bio from E-Street Band drummer Max Weinberg and John Oates of Hall & Oates fame, my guess was his new ‘Stages’ EP would be well worth checking out. I’m pleased to report this assumption would prove to be correct as ‘Stages’ is a little gem.
The Taerk story actually goes right back to 2010 and includes two previous album releases ‘Josh’ and 2015’s ‘Here’s To Change’ which was recorded in Nashville with a host of quality players and John Oates adding backing vocals. I’m quite surprised that Josh is a new name to me as he’s toured regularly here in the UK. I’m not sure how I missed that, too much music and too little time I guess.
The first thing you notice about Josh Tuerk circa 2017 is the positivity of his lyrics. Opener ‘Learning to Let Go’ looks at how life experiences shape the people we become “Are we living life to live it, or casting judgements from the side lines” is something to which we should all be able to relate. The positivity of the lyric is enhanced by an uplifting chorus and some nicely played slide guitar. ‘Learning to Let Go’ is a co-write with producer / guitarist Teddy Morgan (Kevin Costner & Modern West). ‘Anywhere That Love Took Us’ is next up and comparisons to Modern West are valid. If you like your country rock to be relaxed, tuneful and well played (nice guitar licks here) this should work well. Teddy Morgan has put together a terrific band here with Modern West alumni Park Chisolm (bass) and Richard Medek (drums) alongside Jon Coleman on keys with top session drummer Greg Morrow (Blake Shelton / Luke Bryan) adding his skills to two tracks.
Gentle acoustic guitar ushers in ‘After the Fall’ and we shift gears into big epic balladry, complete with orchestral backing. ‘After The Fall’ originally appeared on Josh’s ‘Here’s To Change’ album so it seems a little odd that it makes another, admittedly very welcome, appearance here. Am I missing something?
The reflective lilt of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ features fine interplay between guitar and organ, with the highlight a really nicely rising guitar solo, the lyric again looks at the life choices we make which is very much a theme of ‘Stages’. The closing track ‘Neverland’ benefits from gentle tremolo guitar parts and brings ‘Stages’ to an early end that leaves you wanting more. Throughout the EP it’s apparent that Josh Taerk knows his way around a song and exhibits a real knack with a hook. He seems equally comfortable with a foot in both pop and country camps and the merging of genres seems very natural to him.
Josh returns to the UK in early 2018 with a show lined up in London at the Academy Islington on January 13th which should be well worth checking out.