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EP Review: Tennessee by Josiah and the Bonnevilles

Updated: Apr 14, 2023

Josiah Leming’s journey so far has been long and strange. He dropped out of high school at 17 to hit the road, playing shows at small venues while living out of his car. He participated in American Idol season 7, failing to make the round of 24. Later, was scooped up by Warner Bros Music and let go after only one record. Following the Warner Bros. deal, he spent a handful of years self-releasing records. In 2018 Josiah Leming started recording under the name Josiah and the Bonnevilles and signed with Yucatan Records. In 2021, after a few records, he left Yucatan to record independently again. Most recently he's released a series of originals and covers that have been pretty incredible. His version of Childer’s “Jersey Giant” and Bieber’s (yes, Justin) “Ghost”, along with his original “Blood Moon” are amongst some of the standouts from the last couple of years.

That brings us to today, now 34 years old, 17 years after leaving home, Josiah Leming releases the Tennessee EP, a collection of 3 songs that examine the singer’s relationship with his native state. Returning home after leaving at a young age stirs up a myriad of emotions in the singer. The EP’s first song “Tennessee Song” celebrates his home state, singing birds, rolling green hills, and the treasures of the state. “I Am Appalachia” celebrates coming home, and feeling your birthplace embedded deep into your DNA. The EP’s “Back to TN” closing track discusses coming home, battered, and bruised to a hometown that will "meet me with scorn, but at least will meet me". Going home is complicated.

Leming shares his vocal timbre with the other Dylanesque contemporaries like Joe Pug, Conor Oberst, and Kristian Matsson of The Tallest Man on Earth, but has the ability to belt out huge, full choruses that could fill The Ryman. The EP’s instrumentation is mostly predictable with an acoustic guitar, bass, and the occasional harmonica or piano embellishment. The counterpoint between vocals and bass throughout “I Am Appalachia” is flawless. Leming’s pure emotion in this EP is what most impresses me. In a world of instant gratification, where emotion is becoming a fleeting commodity, Leming’s voice and songs are a breath of fresh air. I’d really like to see him pursue writing more songs about the natural world, perhaps he’ll go through a bit of a John Denver phase. If not, I’ll appreciate the Tennessee EP for what it is and look forward to the next Josiah and the Bonnevilles’ record.

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