Justin Golden

Hard Times and a Woman

The word “blues” pops up in Justin Golden’s bio, but “African-Americana” might be a more apt term. The Virginian’s 12 originals make for an extremely impressive debut, as comfortable leaning toward country on “Can I Get Right” as blues – rural on “Ain’t Just Luck,” city on “The Gator,” with its roaring, distorted guitar. It’s an eclectic schmear, but his strong identity gives cohesion and defies pigeonholing.

It’s tempting to say a tune like “Must Be Honey” could be a hit if covered by an established artist, but improving on Golden’s version is unimaginable. His resonator guitar gives “Moon Far Away” a decades-old quality, as does his fingerpicking on “Call Me When The Bed Gets Cold.” But the powerful, contemporary “If I Keep It Together” erases any retro notion. Lyrically, melodically, and instrumentally, it’s refreshing to hear someone as “realized” as 30-ish Justin.

Adding additional guitar parts are Nate Hubbard and, in spots, bassist/producer Chip Hale. Golden switches to clawhammer banjo for the closing “Oh Lord, Oh Lord,” featuring Benjamin Hunter’s fiddle and a vocal choir. Kudos to all of the players here, to Hale, to engineer Lance Koehler for crackling production, and especially Golden, for an auspicious debut.

This article originally appeared in VG’s July 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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