Sydney export singer-songwriter Rob Joass, who now calls New Zealand home, just released his whimsical new album Pencarrow and it’s jolly good. Known as one of the hardest working musicians in New Zealand (as highlighted by Radio New Zealand’s Jim Mora) and well known in folk circles both here and in Australia in bands like Hobnail, Too Many Chiefs and The Hot Shot Band, he delivers an album that is fresh and flows over into a more mainstream audience.
Despite having lived in New Zealand for more than 25 years, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. While this album contains eight new originals there are also two remakes, one being a rework of his own song Baggage, which was a Best Country Song finalist, and a nod to one of his key influences with When I First Met Ya Ma by Paul Kelly.
The album kicks off with the title track, Pencarrow, and while its starts off with a simple melody and guitar picking style, something you might play around a campfire perhaps, it quickly builds with layers and a picture you could imagine when walking to the lighthouse in question. A love song with a simple analogy... Joass' guitar and vocals work really well to create a wonderful atmosphere of fear and strength. This is my favourite track of the new album.
The Sweet Unknown follows and, once again, the melody appears simple yet somehow familiar with layered vocals added to accentuate the words... you can’t help feeling like you’re being pulled into the conversation.
This is not a country music album but it does sit nicely for those that like that vibe while also providing Alt Country folk plenty to tap their toes to. Souvenir delivers this quite nicely with a little more sneer and attitude. This song of love gone bad has the shadows of Nick Cave behind the spit and despair.
The songs on Pencarrow are not for the poppy, quick-fix brigade but more like a good red wine to be drunk by yourself while finding time to reflect on the many tales that Joass is keen to share. Winter Song and The Waves are stripped-back tracks that make you pause and reflect just a little.
I really enjoyed Joass’s version of Paul Kelly’s When I first Met Your Ma but I did have to remind myself I am a huge fan of Mr Kelly and, while it’s clear that he is an influence, he has put his own stamp on a lovely song and as they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Southern Lights, the closing track, is the closest to a good old country boy sound that you might expect to hear coming off a veranda as the sun is setting over the burnt countryside while travelling down a dusty road to nowhere. It’s a bit of fun and, while not overly complicated, is a nice bookend to Pencarrow.
Rob Joass has clearly been a busy man, both in front of the mic and behind the desk, over the past number of years. To hear these tracks live, along with his back catalogue of previous incarnations, would be quite a treat and one that I would encourage any reader to see what they have been missing out on. The best place to start is to have a listen to this clutch of tracks and then look out for him as he comes to a town close to you.
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Released: 08 Mar 2019