Is it soul? Is it gospel, funk, rhythm and blues, rock, disco, pop? The answer is simultaneously yes and no when these questions are asked of musician Joshua Strauther, whose unique sonic aesthetic and Renaissance-man approach to composition illustrates all the noteworthy shortcomings of those genre classifications.
Strauther’s band, Joshy Soul and the Cool, will make their Wood River debut this weekend, on Saturday, June 8, at the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum.
While some of Joshy Soul’s tracks certainly draw upon the aforementioned genres, the musical polyglot also likes to keep his horizons as broad as possible, both in terms of geographical and historical origins.
He sang high praises of the musicians he grew up listening to, but also acknowledged their limitations.
“They weren’t doing sharp elevens and major nines in Motown. They were keeping it simple, which is beautiful, but music remains so colorful because it’s always changing,” he said. “I want to innovate, to add my own influences.”
Speaking of those influences, he said he listens to a lot of Brazilian and French music, and that their geographically specific intonations and rhythms ignite his imagination, but his tastes also transcend time. Just moments after noting his admiration for John Legend, Strauther said, “I’ve only been listening to Baroque music lately. I want to incorporate that along with the gospel and soul music I grew up on.”
Backing Strauther as Joshy Soul is his band The Cool. The band blends guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and vocals with a three-piece horn section responsible for most of the soulful, funky vibes that define the tonality of so many tracks. Strauther, like many a listener, is enchanted with the fullness and richness of that section’s sound, and is mulling over bolstering its numbers.
“I might look for a fourth,” he said, “maybe a sousaphone.”
Just a few weeks ago, the band released a new single, “Magic,” on all major platforms, teasing a new album to come late this summer. That project will mark Joshy Soul’s sophomore release.
Just 10 years ago, when he was only 18, Strauther began playing music, finding he possessed an innate ability to play by ear. “I’m self-taught,” he said. “I could listen to Chopin and then play Chopin, just like that.”
That sensitive ear is something most musicians would kill for, but after a while, Strauther realized it was not quite enough as a foundation for a successful career, and he went to school to learn more about music, to enrich his understanding not only of how to play music, but how to write it and why his influences wrote the way they did.
“I went to school to understand technique and theory, and that does make it better,” he said. “You learn the tools to question things, and then figure out the answers.”
With his worldly approach to music and his flat-out refusal to get bogged down in any single genre (he has one straight disco song out of a diverse repertoire), Strauther has cultivated a truly unique sound, promising of great things to come.
Visit theargyros.org for tickets to the June 8 show. Lounge on Fire kicks off as opener for Joshy Soul and the Cool at 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Audience members 25 and under are admitted for $10.
Swing by and get ready to rock out to some innovative, electrifying music.