Joshua Hedley

Neon Blue

Country tradition remains the center of Joshua Hedley’s universe. His 2018 debut, Mr. Jukebox, reflected his mastery of the ’50s and ’60s honky-tonk of Ray Price, George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Faron Young, free of any self-conscious imitation. The traditions remain this time, though they’re advanced a couple decades into ’80s and ’90s New Traditionalism of the Dwight Yoakam/John Anderson/Alan Jackson variety.

While Hedley concentrates on vocals, his accompanists are first-rate. There’s electric guitarist James Mitchell, Tim Galloway playing acoustic, and bassist Viktor Krauss. Scotty Sanders handles pedal steel and resonator guitar. Mitchell and Sanders stand out on the barroom shuffle “The Last Thing in the World,” embellishing Hedley’s vocal in the right places. Mitchell offers an aggressive ’90s-style intro to the rocking “Broke Again.”

On “Country & Western,” Hedley, who co-wrote all but one tune, wryly explains his musical passions. Galloway opens the reflective “Free (One Heart),” enhanced by Jenee Fleenor’s mandolin and Sanders’ steel. Mitchell stands out on both the driving “Neon Blue” and “Wonder if You Wonder.” Sanders is burning on “Bury Me with My Boots On.” Why is there nary a hint of stale nostalgia anywhere? It’s simple; for Hedley, old-school country never died.

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

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