Josh Tillman

Josh Tillman Biography

Joshua Tillman has been "releasing" albums since 2004, beginning with his limited-to-100-copies "I Will Return" ("Grates enormously... merely dirgy and repetitive" - americana-UK.com) followed by 2005's limited-to-150-copies "Long May You Run, J. Tillman" which, thanks to support from the blogosphere, broke his previous sales record by nearly 50 copies. 2006's "Minor Works" released only in Europe by Fargo Records was met with overwhelming critical ambivalence, garnering three star reviews from Uncut Magazine and France's Rolling Stone. 2007's "Cancer and Delirium", his best seller to date, was made available online in the States through Yer Bird records, and, as of this writing, has nearly sold out of it's initial pressing of 1,000 copies.

Cobbled together from three different recording sessions in 2008, J. Tillman's fifth, Vacilando Territory Blues, is a wildly uneven record, demanding a suspension of disbelief that it is in anyway cohesive or deliberate in vision. Tillman's second record with engineer Kory Kruckenberg finds him over- reaching more than usual, with mixed results.

Following a failed, and ultimately misguided, attempt at recording "rock" songs ("Steel On Steel", "New Imperial Grand Blues") in an environment purposefully riddled with obstructions, Tillman, alarmed, violently switched gears, writing a new group of songs which would manifest as all-too- precious, bloated clunkers ("Barter Blues", "Laborless Land", "No Occasion", "Above All Men"). After several months living with the first finished version of VTB, Tillman ended up scrapping several particularly embarrassing songs and recording the remaining third in Kruckenberg's new house about a week before mastering.

One could make a serious stretch and compare moments of this record to the strained, ramshackle post-folk of Will Oldham and others to full-moon, creeping rock of Neil Young, if one were desperate to fill copy in a record review without having to spend much more than casual listen. Upon serious evaluation VTB obviously falls short of those comparisons, but typically the purpose of a bio is to fill the reader's head with approximations, so you'll have to forgive the indulgences.

VTB succeeds in that it isn't as completely beholden to one over-arching dynamic as his previous attempts. While the shifts at times appear to be merely for the sake of being difficult, they are at least interesting in the lowest-common denominator of value: they don't all sound the same.

Vacilando Territory Blues is available from Bella Union digitally and in stores this October and January respectively, and Tillman can currently be seen playing drums for Seattle folk-outfit Fleet Foxes.

Josh Tillman All Music Guide Biography

Singer/songwriter J. Tillman's music paints languid, sadly beautiful portraits of love and life on the margins with the moody depth of Nick Drake and the country-influenced textures of Ryan Adams. Tillman first made a name for himself playing drums in a pair of indie rock bands, Saxon Shore and Stately, while attending college in New York City. In his spare time, however, he began writing material of his own, citing the music of Nick Drake and Pete Seeger and the writings of Flannery O'Connor as key influences. Some of Tillman's demos found their way to Damien Jurado, who invited Tillman to join his band for a tour. Tillman played solo sets during several dates on the tour and began distributing CD-R copies of an early collection of tunes called I Will Return. During the tour, he also struck up a friendship with Eric Fisher, who produced another CD-R album, Long May You Run. Both Tillman and Jurado later signed on for a U.S. tour with Richard Buckner, where Tillman once again found a ready audience for home-burned copies of his disc. In 2006, the independent Fargo Records label released Tillman's first properly distributed solo album, Minor Works, and Keep Records reissued I Will Return and Long May You Run as a two-disc set the same year. In 2007, Yer Bird Records released Tillman's fourth, more elaborately arranged album, Cancer and Delirium. Although his solo work continued to garner critical acclaim, Tillman briefly shifted focus in 2008 by joining Fleet Foxes. The group toured heavily in support of its debut album; meanwhile, Tillman continued working on his own material, releasing Vacilando Territory Blues and Year in the Kingdom in 2009. In 2011, he left Fleet Foxes to concentrate on his many solo projects, adopting the pseudonym Father John Misty for 2012's well-received Fear Fun, a 12-track collection of new material that infused the harmony-laden hymns of his former band with a patina of Gram Parsons and Harry Nilsson-informed, Laurel Canyon-inspired, neo-psychedelia. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi


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