When singing, the human voice carries much more than just the words it speaks. It carries the land it grew up on, the people it grew up with, and the accent it was born into. A voice can speak to the sound of the land. On his new Americana album, One Shot, Austin songwriter Josh Halverson beautifully channels the wide-open vistas of his home roots in the Texas panhandle. His luminous voice rings clear over these audio landscapes, resonating with unusual clarity and honesty. It’s a voice you’ll remember, from a young songwriter poised to move into the national spotlight. “Just gimme one shot/to show you who I am” he sings on the title track, and after listening to Josh Halverson’s new album, you will feel like you know him.
Growing up the son of a cattle rancher and a Sioux Indian, Halverson’s a true native son of Texas. Although he had played piano since the age of five, he had no plans to pursue a career in music until he was captivated by a Gavin DeGraw performance while attending college. Years later, Halverson still clearly remembers the epiphany he experienced that night: “Gavin was so transparent onstage, as if he put his heart and soul on the table for the audience to see. I thought to myself, ‘This is what I’m supposed to do with my life.’” The day after the concert, Halverson began teaching himself the guitar and started writing his own songs. Now living in Austin, Texas, but still only in his 20s, Halverson’s proved himself to be an uncommonly adept songwriter. Charting the bounds of the human heart, he approaches time-honored topics like heartbreak and devotion with a sense of hard-won innocence. And that’s the seeming paradox at the core of his music: the tension between bitter wisdom and the need to preserve a sense of wonder at the world.
On One Shot, Halverson collaborates with album producer and recording engineer (and fellow Texas songwriter!) Brian Douglas Phillips. Recorded at his own Rattletrap Studios, Phillips is a multi-instrumentalist who brings a strong Americana touch to the album with his playing on pedal steel, banjo, guitar, and piano. There’s a full band sound behind the songs, but it’s still Halverson’s voice that rings out over the band. At times his voice soars above a bed of roots instruments, as in “Comfort Me,” and at times he sings in a hushed croon, as in “Miss Ruth,” a song written for his beloved great aunt. It’s the kind of voice that cuts through the usual noise that surrounds us. Like the open vistas of Northern Texas, Josh Halverson’s voice invites quiet contemplation. That’s the sound of his Texas roots.