Whilst there must be hundreds of required competencies in great soul song writing, perhaps the truly defining ingredient is the ability to create other worlds. The commonalities of say Gaye, Michael and Rodgers is their ability to build, then piece together, sonic and narrative universes which not only describes their story, but also connects with those who listen. We may not have experienced sexual healing, or turned a different corner, but we understand how the artist would have felt.
In this context, truly great soul music is as much about complex architecture as it about a simple message.
Given his background as a covers artist, North-Eastern soul boy Joshua Hodgson certainly seems to have spent time in architecture school. His set tonight is short (7 songs) yet powerful; particularly given that this is the first full airing of several of his own creations.
‘Payday’ and ‘Charity Smile’ standout as the most complete songs in Hodgson’s catalogue; both demonstrating fine funk guitar skills and providing strong illustrations to the central theme in Hodgson’s universe, namely taking care of those less fortunate. Whilst ‘Payday’ is more upbeat than the emotive ‘smile’ both showcase Hodgson’s fine vocal range and his ability to combine two singing styles, one moment tough and proud, the next wistful and longing. When Josh sings ‘It doesn’t take lot to show somebody you care’ or tells us to ‘help someone without the public shame’ you know that he’s been the person who’s needed that support. Part of his power is his truth.
Taken as a whole, Hodgson shows immense talent for his songwriting, playing and vocal delivery. A cover of Crowded House’s ‘Don’t dream its over’, a difficult song to replicate, is delivered soulfully and reimagined to suit a level of maturity well above his 21 years. It’s a cover which sits well into a set which includes new track ‘Time will tell’ as well as ‘Chronicles of grief’ a song which journeys from a lover confessing their love to the demise of the relationship and the realisation that the person in question has gone. Narratively it’s not too far from ‘I will survive’, optimistic one moment, desperate the next.
Hodgson has set himself a great stall to showcase his work from. His job now is to carry on creating worlds for the rest of us to visit.