Album Review: STAGES by Josh Taerk

Josh Taerk STAGES

Americana singer-songwriter Josh Taerk delivers a strong third studio album with STAGES

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Josh Taerk when his new CD dropped onto my desk. As an entertainment blogger, I’m often sent material from emerging artists and I assumed Taerk to be one of them. A quick Google search, along with a listen to his new EP STAGES, proved me wrong.

Best known in the US and in his native Canada, Josh Taerk (pronounced Turk) is a Pop, Country and Americana singer-songwriter. Since opening for Bruce Springsteen and E-Street Band drummer Max Weinberg in 2010, Taerk’s music career has grown from strength to strength, with tours across the UK, US and Canada and support from artists such as Robin Trower (Procol Harum), Kevin Costner & Modern West, Jon McLaughlin and Austin Jones.

STAGES is Taerk’s third studio album following the self-titled JOSH in 2010 and the critically acclaimed HERE’S TO CHANGE in 2015. The five track EP marks a new stage in Taerk’s career with the artist picking tracks that represent the “different stages of my writing”.

The new single LEARNING TO LET GO opens the EP, immediately setting the tone for the rest of the album with its thought-provoking lyrics and memorable melody. Enhanced by an uplifting chorus and some nicely played slide guitar, Taerk’s impassioned vocals take hold of the track and it’s clear to see why the 25-year old has been compared to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Ed Sheeran and The Wallflowers in the past.

The pop/country track ANYWHERE LOVE TOOK US follows, with its catchy melody and well-played guitar. With Modern West alumni Park Chisolm (bass) and Richard Medek (drums), alongside Jon Coleman on keys and session drummer Greg Morrow (Blake Shelton/Luke Bryan) all lending their skills on the number, the opening tracks boast a rich, well-produced sound that is easy on the ear.

Fans of Taerk’s previous album HERE’S TO CHANGE will recongise the third track, AFTER THE FALL. Initially starting with a gentle acoustic guitar, this track slowly turns into an epic ballad with full orchestral backing, although it isn’t really clear why Taerk chose to replicate this number on this album. At just over five minutes long, this number also seems to lag a bit towards the end, interrupting the overall flow of the album.

The same can be said for the penultimate track JEKYLL OR HYDE. While there is some fine interplay between guitar and organ and the track nicely demonstrates Taerk’s vocal range (his low, deep vocals rise into a sweet soprano), the track just doesn’t seem to sit quite right amongst the other tracks.

That said, things are back on a high for the closing number NEVERLAND. With its soft vocals and soothing electric guitar, this gentler ballad brings STAGES to an early end and ultimately leaves you wanting more.

With its inspiring lyrics, impressive melodies and good mix of pop and country tracks, STAGES is a strong studio album for Taerk. It’s clear that the 25-year old is a talented singer-songwriter with a real knack for a hook, and the merging of genres seem very natural to him. The only real disappointment is that STAGES is a five track EP instead of a full-length album of 10-12 tracks.

4 out of 5 stars

STAGES by Josh Taerk is released on 2 February 2018 through Misty Creek Records.