The Best He Could Do at The Time, Joe Hicks’ Debut Album

A little late for the party, as ever, I’ve been procrastinating, and my computer is equally as listless; failing to save my original words on this. Meanwhile Newbury good guy, but welcomed regular on our circuit, Joe Hicks has been busy with a debut album launched yesterday, worthy of a rewrite……

Titled The Best I Could Do at The Time, Joe is seriously playing it down, like the nerd at college who tells you they “haven’t done much” for their assignment, so you follow suit only to find them offering a feasible cure for all known diseases in a presentation with U2 providing the soundtrack, while the best you can offer is a scribbling of your pet cat, which you did on the bus journey there.

The opening tune, Sail Away, for example, is far punchier than David Gray’s appellation of the same name, and we won’t contemplate sailing down the Rod Stewart route. Though it’s best pigeonholed like Gray’s, as folktronica, there’s a whole lot more going on here from this stalwart who could just as easily fit comfortably into a blues dance as he could a folk festival, and does.        

The blurb suggests The Best I Could Do at the Time is “a journey through many of the emotional peaks and troughs we go through as humans,” Joe explained, “and more specifically me as a musician in such uncertain times. It’s about acknowledging them, living in those feelings for a while and ultimately finding the hope we all have within us to take control and rise above the worst of them. It’s about doing the best we can with the tools that we have.”

The first thing to hit you is the sheer production quality, a euphoric yet upbeat anthemic joy from the off, Sail Away, sustains the timeless pop formula, making him balance on the edge between aforementioned folk and blues, and allowing this album to flow tidy, but traverse any given pop subgenre at will, while retaining originality and stylised inimitability.

If One More Step, the timeless pop second track is a prime example, it builds on layers like a contemporary hit of say a George Ezra-Bruno Marrs hybrid, Maybe When It’s Over follows, and this stretches back further, reeking of unruffled seventies soul, like Curtis Mayfield.

Four tracks in and you’re safe in knowledge to accept anything, Pieces is sublime acoustic fluff, and there was a line in the subtle skank of Lost in Love, “oh, such a reckless emotion,” where I paused for thought on a comparison which I couldn’t quite put my finger on, until it came to me; the velvety vocals of Paul Young, especially when he sang Come Back and Stay.

Mirror Mirror reflects an indie side-order, while Out of My Mind surprisingly nods of township jive, designating a hint of Paul Simon’s Graceland. Hand in Hand settles the pace once again to this euphoria, so that even if the narrative traverses the downhearted at times, it’s always a musical ride with the glass half full. And herein is my point; this is ageless pop goodness, borrowing from what went before, but fresh and contemporary throughout, which is the even balance of magnitude.

The final trio of tracks on this eleven-strong album returns to the early eighties pop formula with, Alive, folktronica goodness with the inspiring Make It Home, and Weightless polishes it off with the pop roll of The Corrs, or something along those lines, though the whole shebang holds itself in its own pocket.

It’s a wonderful album, deservedly to be considered a remarkable achievement; The Best I Could Do at The Time huh? Well, the time is nigh. Having made a name for himself as a session guitarist, Joe Hicks was ‘BBC Introducing Artist of the Week’, directly from his first solo single in 2017. Since he’s built up a sizable online following, touring the UK and Europe, appearing at CarFest, The Big Feastival, Are You Listening? Festival, Pub in the Park, over thirty Sofar Sounds shows and slots supporting Sam Fender, James Walsh and Starsailor.

Here in Devizes, he’s regularly appeared at Long Street Blues Club and Saddleback, and is always a delight to chat with; just a genuine modest talent, of which this album truly blows the lid off his cover. I got your number, Hicks; bloomin’ amazing album, my son!

Link-Tree to Buy


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