By Will Edwards
Josh Damigo’s first full-length record, Raw, is unusual. It plays a bit like a diary and a live show rolled into one. The songs thread together and flow well throughout the playlist and the lyrical message typically explores reflections and sentiments on young love, lust, and overcoming personal challenges. So, is this a “been there, done that” record? In short, no it isn’t. Permit me to answer a cliché question with a cliché answer. There’s more to Josh Damigo than meets the eye.
My favorite song on the whole album is “Sleeves.” As a cynic, I like it because it reminds me that sometimes we’re misunderstood and life is hard. How many of us like a song just because it lets us brood? Track 10, “Rain,” echoes a similar mood and ironically the melancholy tone makes me feel… well, better. When I thought about why I liked those songs most, I discovered something unexpected – that most of the other tracks stray into unfamiliar territory for the genre. They’re positive and optimistic. Is a singer-songwriter allowed to be so content?
There are many common themes here, particularly songs that describe the kind of young love characterized by long walks on the beach and awkward moments that make for spontaneous laughter. Many of us have come to the conclusion that love is a double-edged sword. Damigo doesn’t follow that cliché but instead directs our attention toward the “good times” side of the love story that I was willing to abandon my cynicism (albeit temporarily).
Raw ends with a surprise spectacular – a track co-written and produced by Jeremy Rubolino, called “Shooting for the Sun” – and the only track not produced by Aaron Bowen (who also produced Damigo’s 2007 release, Pocket Change). While Bowen’s production style is very conservative, Rubolino’s approach couldn’t be much more flamboyant. Each approach has its virtues and while “Shooting for the Sun” stands as an obvious reflection of standard pop design, it is a great closing song. In summary, the song is about breaking through and making it. That, too, is a cliché, but it’s also at the very heart of why many creative people have created anything at all. Of all the songs on the album, this final track has the best shot at radio success (a fact not lost on Rubolino and Damigo, I’m sure).
Damigo is ambitious and he wears it on his sleeve. Throughout the record, he delivers more natural performances that demonstrate considerable growth vocally and performance-wise over his 2007 EP. His lack of cynicism makes him different and may align him with a broader listening audience. Someone once said, “Country music is great because you can always sing along the first time you hear it.” One could say that Damigo often states the obvious as a songwriter, but on the other hand that, makes for a lot of common ground with his listeners. On track seven Damigo admits, “Come on, sing it, it’s really easy. I don’t write complicated [songs].” Eventually, I agreed with him and am happy to sing along.