Delicate, irresistible reflections from London-based singer/songwriter Josh Geffin
Release Date: 1st July 2022
Label: Pear O‘ Legs Records
Formats: CD, Download
Josh Geffin is building quite a reputation for himself on the London folk scene. He’s a guitarist of no mean ability – indeed, his predominantly fingerstyle playing has been compared to that of greats such as Nick Drake, John Martyn and Bert Jansch and his pastoral compositions have drawn comparisons with the likes of Leif Voltebeck, Bonny Light Horseman and Bon Iver. And there’s plenty of evidence to justify those comparisons on Josh’s new EP, Hold on to the Light.
Josh is a performer who has earned his Singer/Songwriter label. He’s been playing guitar since he was 13 years old and he honed his songwriting skills as a student at the experimental Dartington College of Arts in Devon. His songs are melodic, reflective, delicate and well-considered and they’re recorded respectfully using an instrumental lineup that adds just the right amount of colour and gives full prominence to the vocals and the lyrics. Josh does the lion’s share of the work himself and contributes acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, bass, Wurlitzer and synth to complement his intimate, reassuring vocals. On Hold on to the Light, he’s joined by Victoria Hume, who adds some quite sublime vocal harmonies, Karl Penney on restrained drums and percussion, Anthony Hurley on backing vocals and Henry Horrell on violin. And the sound they make together is pretty well irresistible.
Will You Come Back From the War is a thoughtful, almost dramatic, opener. Josh’s contemplative vocals are accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar, whilst the drama is added by bursts of solid bass and prominent drums. Victoria’s vocal harmonies are excellent and the whole thing is rounded off by some well-considered touches of electric guitar and synth. It’s an interesting opening track that doesn’t quite give the game away with regard to what’s to come.
The Nick Drake comparisons start to make sense on Hold On To The Light, the EP’s title track and its first single. Josh plays a dexterous weave on his acoustic guitar and Victoria’s harmonies are so subtle that you just about realise she’s there. The lyrics are genuinely reassuring, inspired by a piece of graffiti that Josh spotted whilst taking a walk during lockdown: “It was January 2021, ‘Lockdown 3,’ pretty bleak, and one of the things that helped me to stay positive was going for long walks. One morning on the seafront near Brighton I saw etched onto the sea wall in big rough lettering: ‘No matter how dark it gets, hold on to the light.’ At that moment, it was just what I needed to see. Later, picking on my guitar, I started singing those words and somehow it didn’t feel naïve or sentimental but a direct and necessary call to hope in unsettled times.” Guest Barry Keen contributes some lovely synth that adds just a touch of spicy eastern flavouring.
The ponderous Best We Could has a tune that recalls Dylan’s Knocking On Heaven’s Door, and Josh sings with a world-weary voice that suits the mood perfectly. The song begins with a sparse acoustic guitar accompaniment and becomes quite anthemic, once the full band kicks in. Victoria’s harmonies and touches of spacy synth lend a truly ethereal touch.
If the comparisons between Josh and Nick Drake were apparent on the EP’s title track, then the similarities to Bert Jansch are equally evident on Dead Stars, the EP’s closing track, a song that, at least to me, is reminiscent – in form, not in subject matter – of Bert’s Needle Of Death. Josh delivers his most assured vocal on the album over more of his wonderful guitar picking, things get very pleasant indeed when bass, drums and mandolin kick in, and sprinkles of pedal steel-sounding electric guitar add the cherry to the cake.
Recording and release of the EP has been supported by a grant from the Help Musicians charity. Hold On To The Light is a highly enjoyable short collection – four excellent songs played beautifully, and well worth seeking out.
Josh Geffin will be touring during July and if any of the following venues are local to you, I’d strongly recommend that you pop along to see him. On the evidence of Hold on to the Light, you’ll be in for a good time.
1st July: The Harrison, Kings Cross, London (EP Launch)
8th July: Lost Arc, Rhayder, Powys
9th July: Speakeasy, Hereford
10th July: Canteen, Bristol
12th July: The Musician, Leicester
15th July: Fish Factory, Falmouth
20th July: Folklore Rooms, Brighton
watch the Official video to Hold on to the Light – the EP’s title track and the current single – here:
Categories: EP Review