The beat is big and insistent in the title cut from Brooke Josephson’s new EP Showin’ Up, but while its thrust is intimidating in comparison to what I’ve been catching up with among the other players in her scene lately, it’s only lighting the fuse in this white-hot track. Josephson’s vocal is pure and melodic, but her delivery is aggressive and more attentive to the textural backdrop than it ever has been previously. The gallop of the groove is enough to leave anyone within earshot in a trance, but as the jittery rhythm of “Rainbow” replaces it a short three minutes later, it becomes quite obvious that tempo is going to be one of the great catalysts for catharsis in Showin’ Up.
Brooke Josephson has never been the type of player to conceal her emotionality behind props, and in this respect, “Rainbow” is on par with everything she’s ever recorded. What’s different here is her ambitiousness with harmonies, both in this song and the following cut in the tracklist “Hangin’ up My Cape,” as they feel so much bigger than the delicate voice presenting them to us. Her backing band is doing a lot of heavy lifting in the rock-heavy first act of Showin’ Up, but never do her verses sound like a footnote to the music’s vacuum of charisma. This feels very collaborative, which isn’t easy to pull off when you’ve got a singer as larger than life as this talented woman happens to be in and outside of the studio.
“The Lesson” is a well-composed pop ballad, and while it swells with a ‘90s rock sensibility in a couple of spots, it doesn’t sound like a direct throwback to anything in the past. Josephson is too present with her verses, too personal with the audience even, for this to be a reprint of someone else’s artistry, and the same can be said for the equally touching “Don’t Say.” Although she’s wearing her influences on her sleeve for Showin’ Up, she can’t be accused of rejecting the intuition that leads artists into their own subgenre experimentations, especially when appreciating the hints of Americana, blues, country, folk, and even funk that work their way into the bigger picture of this extended play’s material.
The final song in Showin’ Up, “Love Me Like a Man,” is split into two versions – a short and extended rendition depending on your interest in its instrumental frills. Personally, I like the long track because of its daring use of blues elements somewhat foreign to Josephson’s sound before now, and from where I sit, it’s a look she wears particularly well. It took some time to get this EP together, but for what this singer/songwriter’s fans have waited for, I think they’re more than getting their money’s worth out of Showin’ Up. It’s a record made in tribute to first responders of all kinds, both on the street and at home, and it reminds us that the most comforting voices can take many different forms depending on what we need from them the most.