Josh Dillard - The Whale & The Sea

May 11, 2011

by Chris Hess
[A] problem with being friends with artists is you can end up being quite proud of what they produce . . .  proud like a father is proud of his children. You want to tell the world about their art, with no intentions of keeping your unabashed pride at bay. This then presents issue when wanting to review that art—in this case a fine, fine album—for a blog post. The solution? Ask someone else to write it that can at least do a better job of keeping his unabashed pride at bay. I'm proud—again like a father—to introduce you to the words of Ruminate guest blogger, Mr. Steve Shafer. He's a good man with a fine heart . . . and turns out to be a trustworthy reviewer to boot. ~Chris Hess, Ruminate Blog Contributor
Bearded Colorado native, Josh Dillard, released his first album The Kate EP in 2007, an album, not surprisingly, about an eponymous young lady. His most recent album The Whale & The Sea was released just last month, and in a recent interview Dillard was asked to comment on the subject of the album's title. SS: Is this album also about a relationship, with a whale? JD: . . . No. I found myself wondering, then what is it about? The question can really only be asked of a coherent work, and The Whale & The Sea is indeed such a work. Recorded by David Wilton at St. Ida’s Recording Studio, there is an audible spaciousness, a sonic freedom that allows Dillard’s definitive and intelligible writing a proper spotlight. The musicianship of the supporting band is impressive and consistently plays to this same end of building a firm but malleable foundation, poured with sparse piano, haunting pedal steel, reinforced with rhythmic rebar. It’s more than folk or indie or rock or indie folk rock, but that nostalgia is there. A real nostalgia, not the nostalgia of suburbanites singing of trains and farms they’ve never been to. Leaning in close to these songs (which I have done, at least two score times), you start to see that the pattern, the red thread among the fibers, is process. Weighty issues—broken families, depression, spiritual and existential crises, relational collapse—are  typical artistic fodder. And the art usually turns out whiny or maudlin. Josh Dillard’s music here is different—it is the process through the pain, the ability to share his journey honestly and accessibly that invites others into the healing. This is, in fact, why he makes music. On the track “Nite Lite” he works through heartbreak and longing to a beautiful refrain, “no more singing these sad songs.” “Wrecking Ball,” a story of a father’s choices and a family’s turmoil, ends, “we’re barely standing, but we’re standing tall, the Lord has made us stronger from it all.” The candor and introspection of the album flows genuinely from the man behind the music. Like Dillard, The Whale & The Sea puts on Wranglers and wears an excellent beard, sits comfortably in a bar or a coffee shop or a cathedral, can speak intimately or to thousands, and, it seeks to show the heart of its creator. If the album falls short in any way, it’s only on length. He certainly has more stories to tell and spaces to explore than those within these nine songs. And you’ll want to hear them too after you hear The Whale & The Sea. *The Whale & The Sea can be listened to in its entirety & purchased at joshdillard.bandcamp.com, and is also available on iTunes.


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