Josh T. Pearson opens for Erika Wennerstrom at the Top Hat Sun., April 29, at 8 PM. $15/$12 advance.
On paper, the lyrics from Josh T. Pearson’s The Straight Hits evoke, at times, 1980s buttrock or some terrible rap album parody. There are mentions of “baby doll,” “kitten” and “devil woman,” and there’s a lot of sass about not getting knocked down, about “gettin’ all fired up,” about “stealin’ your jobs, your woman, your fans and your team.” Whatever that means. Somehow the Denton, Texas, native wraps all his strange word choices into an often tender, raucous album. His vocals are a blend of Roy Orbison and Nicholas Cage as Sailor Ripley singing Elvis’ “Love Me” to Laura Dern in Wild at Heart.
According to his press release, Pearson created the songs with “five pillars” in mind — mostly rules such as that the lyrics must run 16 lines or less. Every song title has to have the word “straight” in it, too, so there’s “Straight to the Top!” and “Straight Laced Come Undone” and even a cover of Austin singer-songwriter Jonathan Terrell’s “Damn Straight.” That’s just one element that makes the album entertaining.
Pearson is known best for his band Lift to Experience, which earned three recording sessions with John Peel over the years, and his vocals and guitar playing prove why. Still, The Straight Hits! can seem a little disoriented. “Straight at Me” comes off as caricature (plus, how do we interpret lines like “be my Indian princess”?). But then there’s “Whiskey Straight Love,” where Pearson sings, “I got messed up / it turned out alright” and he pulls you into a space so simple and authentic it hurts.