I have always thought of empathy as the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; Joe Vickers seems to have an incredible ability to do just that, while simultaneously telling a tale that seems a little too familiar to be a fabrication. I stumbled on Joe Vickers a little over a week ago, and really enjoyed the stripped down feel of his ‘Notes for the Wood Burning Stove’ album, so much so that I have listened to very few other things in the last week, and I keep coming back.
What first caught my attention was Joe’s simple, primarily guitar and man sound, but what has kept me hooked is his passionate voice and ability to put a single line together with such thorough description. “Your White dress was fitting tighter than the father gripped the rosary”, this line says so many things with so little; it is one of many nuggets nestled nicely into the song Bible Belt, a well-spun yarn where Joe puts himself into the shoes of several outcasts who have been “Beaten by the buckle of the Bible Belt.”
Often, when an artist puts so much description into their songs it can seem like too much, too descriptive to flow well in a song. I think what makes this album different is how much description Joe puts into so FEW words, therefore not feeling strung out while singing them. The double-edge sword here is that it can take more than a single listen to drink it all in, and it does, but there is such quality verbiage and passion in his voice that multiple listens is not a problem.
Ten Year Reunion is another song where you feel the emotion in his voice; Once again we are treated to thorough descriptions of several separate individuals, we get a quick and thorough history on each, and by the end of the song you really feel for them all. I could easily carry on all day about all the other songs on this album; how you find yourself planted in the character’s shoes, how well Joe portrays their plight, and just how perfect it all sounds with so little instrumental interference. While there is not a single song I don’t love on this album, other favorites include Diamond Dancer, Andrea, and (Probably my favorite) Brokeback Son.
Joe is a man who wears many hats; he is a grain farmer, solo artist, and lead man of punk folk group Audio/Rocketry. I have to be perfectly honest, I am unfamiliar with Joe’s Audio/Rocketry music, and have purposely held off on checking it out till I finish this article. It is a way for me to keep myself thinking of only this album as I write, and a treat for after I am done with it, something to enjoy on the 2-hour drive I have this afternoon to a live show across the state.
Check out ‘Notes for the Wood Burning Stove’ wherever you listen/buy digital music and if you like what you hear, check out Audio/Rocketry afterwards, I know I will.
Joe Vickers Website: Here
Joe Vickers Bandcamp page: Here