Jimmy Welsh released his first solo effort since 2008 last week, Thursday, the first we’ve heard from him since November 2010’s “Nothing To Do With Love,” released under the Small Talk banner. Fans had already been treated to a live performance of the title-track (a recording of which can also be found on the album) and “To Fall In Love Like That.”
While Thursday preserves the mainstream appeal Welsh utilized in building his fan base, it would be hard to direct a listener to the most “Small Talk-sounding” track on the record, and that’s a great dilemma to have. Welsh has always been at his best when in possession of an acoustic guitar and an attentive audience, and anyone who has heard him cover JTE’s “Slippin and Slidin” or “Million Dollar Bill” by Middle Brother knows the pop-rock format does not do Welsh justice as a performer.
Something should be said for pop music, though, as its impact on the songwriting on Thursday is enjoyably apparent, with six of the nine studio tracks barely or not even topping the three minute mark, and none reaching four. The overarching structure is short, deceptively simple, and devastating in its universality.
Thursday embrace a number of genres and influences, all of which siphon delicately through the Jimmy Welsh filter in a process he describes as “writing a song on the porch, then [immediately] coming in to record it.” The track list mimics this immediacy, as the sound travels further away from the mostly familiar sound of “Drown It Out” to a musician we haven’t quite heard before, embracing folk and flavors of country (Johnny Cash-esque “A Minefield Metaphor” is a real winner).
Aforementioned opener “Drown It Out,” while resembling a sound we’ve heard before on Small Talk tracks like “You Were Right About Me,” marks Welsh’s first venture into true headphone music, as you detect Friendo guitarist Jesse George’s fingers sliding slowly over the strings while Welsh quietly laments “You know, business has been better but it did not make you happy.”
Drums do not appear on the album until the fourth track, “Been Thinking,” accompanied by a dreamy vocal arrangement and memorable lead guitar. “To Fall In Love Like That” and “Thursday,” at this point, could be called the album’s singles, and they are the most accessible and confident of the bunch (“I changed my go-to phrase and I’m picking up crime,” could be my favorite lyric on the album).
The most exciting thing on Thursday is how developmental the music still sounds. Not that the album appears unfinished, but gives the impression that the next time Welsh releases an album the sound will have already vastly changed.
The standout is closer “Jenn,” a family ode which relegates itself to a simple strum pattern and the most personal lyrics yet, a short and sweet coda to an album which boils down to a few essential notes: coffee is necessary, cigarettes are not, and if you are already so sure about your future then you might be settling. “If I didn’t know I’d be fine, I would try to mimic that lie.”
The effect of the album as a whole is greater, the feeling you get that Welsh, whether destined for mainstream stardom or Saddle Creek legend, is exactly where we need him, doing exactly what he should be.
Thursday is available for purchase on iTunes.