Josh Rude, who performs and records under the name "J*R" is intent on spreading his unique brand of music throughout northern Indiana. Sporting the Do-It-Yourself, extra lo-fi recording standards of the early punk movement, An Alternative To All The Hate is J*R's second full release. With fifteen tracks, plus the obligatory "hidden" track, the entire album clocks in at just under 48 minutes… a lot of lo-fi taffy to pull.
The credits list J*R as playing guitar, vocals, synth, bass, violin, harmonica, and handsnaps, although he rarely does all at once. The majority of the tracks appear to be a single take of acoustic guitar and vocals with overdubs of solo acoustic guitar and vocal harmonies. Aside from James Clark adding drums to a few tracks, Matt Koher and James Rude providing violin and guitar, respectively, on two tracks each, and Gabe Rude playing guitar on "Hot as Ice", J*R plays and sings every note.
Kicking off the album is "Arrowhead Discoveries" with a rambling, moody melody, off-kilter drums, acoustic guitar, and an intriguing violin augmentation by Matt Koher. A relaxed, strummed guitar introduces "Junction Alleyway", a nicely written song containing comforting vocal harmonies and unexpected chord changes. "Hesitant Step" combines Spanish guitar with a George Harrison feel while the humorous "Salmon" exhibits falsetto vocal harmonies, folksy violins, and approximate rhythms like a rough Ed's Redeeming Qualities demo. Obviously inspired by Ben Folds Five is "Lacktic Asskid", a driving piano tune rounded out by bass and a ragged drum kit. Other highlights include the jazzy yet bluesy acoustic guitar (and gratuitous "handsnaps") in "Pocketwatch of Roses", the well written and Dylanesque "One For The Old Folks", the excellent double-stopped violin of "Ridin' The Rails", and the extended harmonica intro of "Rochester Blues." The hit single, "Coffee Shop", with it's subdued, murky feel and intriguing instrumental bridge, can be downloaded from come.to/plunkewe, which incidentally is the same website where one can purchase this album.
An Alternative To All The Hate showcases the many skills that are contributing to J*R's growing following. Be warned that if the occasional sour note or missed beat make you wince, you'll want to skip this one. But if you enjoy a free-form, spontaneous, "second takes be damned" approach to music making, wade on in!
This review first appeared in WhatzUp, April 2002.