Joshua Dylan Balis/We’re On Fire/State Fair Records
Four out of Five Stars
Newcomer Joshua Dylan Balis provides a formidable entry with his debut album, We’re On Fire, an adroit expression of yearning and desire. Of course, when your middle name is Dylan, you have a lot to live up to, but then again it’s incumbent on the artist himself to make a singular impression.
Balis manages to do just that with We’re On Fire, an album that finds him living up to its title with songs that seem to sweep and soar with mood and melody. The multi-layered harmonies of the opening track “All in my Head” set the tone, and with the songs that follow— the emotive “Stories,” the lithe, upbeat bounce of “Coming Of Age,” the rocking and riveting “Coming of Age”—Balis firmly establishes a distinct persona partially gleaned from family tradition. His grandmother was a backing vocalist for Patsy Cline (“Grandmother” offers her a final tender and touching serenade), while his dad co-owned a music venue in Dallas/Worth, where Balis grew up and still resides.
Regardless, these songs are also drawn from personal experience. The name of the album refers to his own close brush with death when the apartment he was living in caught fire. In the aftermath of that life-changing incident, he took time to reflect on the precious nature of the time one has on the planet and the need to find purpose even in the midst of calamity, uncertainty, and dismay. “Silver Linings” and “The Long Walk Home” each sum up that sentiment with a sweet, sincere sound that finds him reflecting on a newfound calm and compassion that came when he was allowed to reassess his place on the planet and the mellow mindset that followed in its wake.
Likewise, “Lydia,” “When You Were Mine” and “Back to Love” share romantic notions in a similarly sensitive way.
Granted, it takes patience and persistence to etch a place amongst today’s competition. Fortunately, Balis appears to have both the attitude and the aptitude to make his own emphatic impression, these eleven songs provide the proof.