Album Review: Things Change, by Josh Heinrichs

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Things Change album coverGiven the events of recent months, calling Josh Heinrichs‘ album Things Change seems like wrapping six songs around an understatement. First there was the split with his band, the local reggae powerhouse Jah Roots, and the surprising cutting of his signature dreadlocks soon after. Whether planned or coincidental in their timing, breaks with the past seemed to be all around. The inevitable question surfaced: How would it affect the music?

There is change, indeed, in Heinrichs’ music, and some of it is immediately noticed. Heinrichs slows down his tempo considerably for the collection of six songs here, using his acoustic guitar and only very spare backing instrumentation. It’s a stunning shift from the full-percussion reggae jams he’s fronted in the past, and it caters well to Heinrichs’ greatest strength: a voice that sounds of soulful longing without reducing such a sound to whining. While one may not always know what Heinrichs is singing about (at times, entire phrases can sound like a single word unless one is paying very close attention), there is never a doubt of his conviction as he sings it.

They are, ostensibly, songs of love, both heavenly and earthly–no change there, as Heinrichs has long used this as source material. At least three of the tracks–“Joy,” “Wanting You” and “Only Wanna Be With You”–are reworked versions of songs found in the Jah Roots catalog, suggesting an artist in transition. They work differently in this context, of course, more meditative than danceable. Whereas the music Jah Roots served as the basis for a good night’s party, Things Change is six songs to chill on an evening porch to and appreciate beauty, and the beauty here is the constants: the voice and songs, the two things Heinrichs needs to roll with the changes.

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