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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Josh Fuson Takes on The Supremes

The Supremes, the latest all-original record from Colorado-based singer-songwriter Josh Fuson, is a masterwork of political critique couched in highly enjoyable, super catchy tunes. Consisting of ten songs based ostensibly on the lives and times of the nine Supreme Court justices, The Supremes rarely wavers from the barely-electrified indie folk that makes Fuson’s music so recognizable and so gratifying. Like the matching black robes the justices wear to court, these ten songs are all dressed in similar clothes (light drumming, bass, acoustic and electric guitar, some organ/keyboards), but what they’re wearing isn’t really the point. Like the justices themselves, what’s inside these songs is as different as Scalia from Sotomayor.

Ranging from nostalgic tales of home and childhood (“Don’t Let The Sun Catch You In Bed”) to bitter, blistering political broadsides (“No No I’m Sorry You Can’t”), The Supremes is the most resonant during those moments when Fuson sheds light on the interior lives of these enigmatic and powerful figures. Songs like the haunting and delicate “To Cecelia” could be about anyone, but set within the context of the album, it becomes a candle set amidst the roiling and hostile emotions of a life on the Supreme Court. Listening to this song it is easy to imagine Justice O’Connor sitting in her bed at night, the lights off, her eyes closed, her mind running and wandering.
Given Fuson’s adeptness at conjuring evocative and believable back stories to the justices, his contemptuous handling of the most conservative justices in songs like “The Hapless Toad” and “Slurry Lake” is really the only criticism for this collection of perfect folk gems. But all art is political, and when you’re writing and singing about as powerful a political body as the Supreme Court, a little contempt is probably in order. Besides, just because Fuson doesn’t like the conservative justices doesn’t mean the songs he wrote about them are bad; “Slurry Lake” is probably the best song on the record. With its Bob Dylan meets Elliot Smith minor key doom, it conjures the hopeless bitterness of the fracking debate at the level where it really matters, the local farmer whose water is undrinkable, whose cattle are dying, whose livelihood is ending.

Josh Fuson’s The Supremes is a gorgeous, indie folk meander through the minds of nine of the most influential people in the world. That it touches also on those people whose lives they’re influencing is a testament to Fuson’s storytelling prowess. The Supremes is a thoroughly enjoyable, catchy, and thoughtful addition to the long history of folk rock polemics.