Josh Okeefe | Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe | (self-released)
3.5 out of 5
There’s more than a hint of deja vu reflected in Bloomin’ Josh Okeefe, the initial offering from English transplant Josh Okeefe. A young Nashville transplant, his rugged, unadorned vocals and solitary acoustic guitar accompaniment bring to mind Bob Dylan in his early Greenwich Village incarnation. Like his apparent idol, Okeefe is an earnest troubadour whose journey from his homeland parallels the former Robert Zimmerman’s own migration from Minneapolis to New York City in search of fame and fortune. That said, Okeefe is an unassuming artist, one who combines old school tradition with an irreverent attitude. That’s evidenced by one of the later songs in this set, descriptively titled “Rolling with the Punches,” an original offering that finds him expressing his belief in patience and perseverance. The tender “Lucille, Lucille” and the unadorned “Young Sailor” take their cue from archival precepts, just as there’s no doubt about the Dylanesque dictates that punctuate the playful yet petulant “Talkin’ Neighbour From Hell” and the longing ballad “When Mother Nature Calls.” Referring to the two latter tracks as the sound of early Dylan redux isn’t any exaggeration whatseover.
That said, Okeefe can’t be called a poser. His trans oceanic trip to America found him on a pilgrimage of sorts, and while the Bloomin’ referred to in the album title is a British colloquialism often used to express impatience and frustration, there’s no doubt as to his devotion to his folk roots. Once he arrived in the U.S., he traveled to the various locales frequented by his American heroes, and asserted his stance by performing at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival singing “This Land Is You Land” in the company of Woody’s son Arlo. He also took to the stage at Glastonbury at the invitation of Billy Bragg, another Brit who’s made it a point to pay homage to his forebears. Like him, Okeefe’s wholly invested in a culture that’s all inclusive, rebuking the common response to violence and tragedy uttered by the politicians in “Thoughts and Prayers,” while cheering those things that create a common bond on the tellingly titled “We’re All the Same.” Familiar sentiments all, they help him establish both his credibility and conviction.
Of course, the familiarity factor can’t be ignored, and while it sometimes seems a distraction, it’s otherwise excused given the fact that Okeefe’s building on a foundation for further exploration. Like a garden in spring, Josh Okeefe’s Bloomin’ bodes well for things to come.