Josh Esterley is a musician currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. He explains, “I was fortunate to record my first album in Syracuse before I moved to St. Louis and recently released it under the title Half-Dozen Dead Roses.
Esterley was playing open mics previous to the pandemic and truth be told that was sort of the vibe I was getting with this release. I don’t say that in a pejorative way. It’s just the fact that the songs are simply acoustic guitar and vocals. He even approaches the guitar playing in a similar way to all the open mics I’ve been to over the years. I would say he strums the guitar with some force. There really isn’t much variation to this on the songs. He finds a comfortable dynamic range and stays there.
Musically, this is a very sparse release. There wasn’t a whole lot to grab onto in this regard. The chords seemed to serve the vocals as the main focal point. On that note the vocals are quite good in a number of ways. He’s a dynamic singer and I found his voice aesthetically pleasing. The lyrics are well written as well and he can get away with different shades of emotion.
The EP gets going with “Thirty Years on the Road to Nowhere” and this song is indicative of what else you will hear on the album. It’s a dynamic folk song about traveling. This is a song that felt timeless in theme. Countless folk songs have been written about the traveling troubadour, not sure where they are going and reflecting on the road so far.
He has some more success with “Far Off Distant Stare” which has some country flair while “Morning Train/Ella Rosa” is contemplative. The remaining songs “One Time Thing/Half Dozen Dead Roses,” “Ten Day Clean” and “All My Years of Drinking'” were solid and really reinforced his sound.
I felt this was a solid foundation. On that note I would love to hear a little more experimentation when it comes to dynamics, chord progressions and general structure. I also think a little emphasis on the music itself might benefit his songs. I’m not saying he needs a full band but other elements here and there could have presented some pleasant surprises on this release.
Overall, I enjoyed Half-Dozen Dead Roses and I look forward to hearing more.
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