-Robert Resnik, VPR's "All the Traditions"
Parts of this column by Dave Madeloni were first published in Vermont's Brattleboro Reformer, on Thursday, 1/29/04
"The expanse and influence of several family generations is woven into the fabric of Josh Brooks' songs. The long hours he spent listening to old country music with granny Lois Geraldine Barrows just before her passing was the catalyst for "Better Days", his spirited and spiritual sophomore effort. The native of Panton, Vermont sat with "Meme," soaking up the dusty sounds of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, George Jones, and Merle Haggard. During the previous year, Brooks had put his music career on the back burner after the birth of his first child, Adelaide.
"My wife's grandmother passed away right before we started recording, and that kind of brought things full circle," explained Brooks via email. "She taught me so much about faith, hope and love, especially in the way she was with my daughter. Most young kids made her nervous, but with Addie it was like she'd found some long-lost friend. I almost felt like Addie was her angel for the short time they knew each other, coming to tell her 'everything's great up there, so don't you worry.' So Better Days isn't just looking for hope in this life, but in whatever comes beyond."
Another familial link can be found on the cd's cover - an old, fuzzy black and white photo taken way-back-when by Lois of a Country and Western trio featuring Uncle "Cubby" Barrows. Meanwhile, the only musical support found on Better Days has a family tie. "When I decided I wanted to record again," said Brooks, "it was all dominoes - my mother-in-law married a drummer (Kent Blackmer). I heard the White Stripes and decided to steal their guitar/drums idea."
The record includes an homage to Brooks' Dad ("I'm Still Walking In My Father's Shoes") and a valentine to his daughter ("Sweet Adelaide") - but the most moving track is an unlisted one - "Gram's Song" ("On the hill there will be one less porch light shining/One less soul that knows the old Hank Williams songs").
Check out the artist's website:
1. Better Days
2. Hurtin' Kind of Love
3. Already in Love
4. What Do You See?
5. Just One Kiss
6. I'm Still Walking In My Father's Shoes
7. You're An Angel
8. Restless Heart
9. Friday Night (All Over Again)
10. One More Samson
11. That's Alright (The Seventh Day)
12. Sweet Adelaide
13. Gram's Song