Liverpool Music Week continued with Josh T Pearson at an evening of sweet country gospel and tales of the coming of the robots, Getintothis’ Paul Fitzgerald found standing room only in the surroundings of the Scandinavian Church.
The congregation were seated, jammed tightly into the pews before Josh T Pearson rang the old ships’ bell at the back of the church to announce the beginning of the set. Looking for all the world like a cowboy Jesus, and dressed entirely in white; cowboy boots, white jeans, shirt and stetson hat. He took his place in front of the red-lit and cross-laden altar, under the domed and beautiful ceiling of this most magnificent of venues. Gone was the long hair and vast beard of days gone by, and he seems far more comfortable in his new self than he initially shows. Here for the first date of this tour, he was accompanied by his good friend Calvin, another good ol’ Texas boy. Exact same outfit, but entirely in black.
In front of them, a sign. By the looks of it, somewhat hastily constructed, and with all the artistic endeavour of someone whose limited resources ran to a crisp box, a sharpie, and a few spare minutes, it read simply The Two Witnesses Gospel Singers. As Pearson explained in typical imbalanced and contradictory style, this was the farewell tour of this ‘new’ project. His aim? Simply to preserve the old Pentecostal gospel songs of the south, and to present them alongside his own work, to give a little balance to the tales of robots taking over the world. Of lost love, betrayal, doubt and disappointment.
Evident from the off, these two incredible singers, with vocal ranges as vast, huge and truly special as the scorched Texan landscapes that bore them, have a deep and heartfelt understanding of the power of praise songs of the deep south like The Sweet Spirit Of The Lord, and What A Day That Will Be. Yes, there were tongues placed firmly in cheeks, of course, but at the end of the day, you can take the boy out of the church……
There was a righteous belief in these old songs, and when Pearson sings them, with his dark, scratched and broken baritone voice, the power and strength shone through, as manna from heaven itself. Songs of a life lived, losses faced, opportunities missed and sorrows drowned; the world weary, the eyes teary, the nights beery. The disappointed tone to his scatterbomb train of consciousness lyrics is sometimes as captivating as it is distracting, but the delivery is always uniquely his, uniquely him. Musically, Pearson‘s work is all about the dynamics and the dark silences to be found here are as key to the whole, as are the massive climaxes in this library of fascinating, filmic songwriting.
There is also humour. Lots and lots of humour. Sometimes a frustrating amount of banter with the audience, and songs interrupted so that a joke can be thrown in to the mix. A cover of Satan Is Real, by the outrageously good, (and outrageously God) Louvin Brothers is stunning, and falls seamlessly into the refusal of Satan’s 666 that is Just Don’t Take The Mark.
The voices, again, lifted to a higher place in these, the most perfect surroundings, before the evening was ended with a cover of the country gospel classic I Will Follow Him. And if you’re thinking this song was in Sister Act 2, then you’re right. The version that these two cowboys (as named in Josh T Pearson’s most exemplary classic album The Last Of The Country Gentlemen) performed was the perfect ending, and in the more than oft-repeated words of the man himself…….
…..true story. I shit you not.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Waters.