Since the days of Chaucer to contemporary literature, film, and television, a story is often told in three acts. The first is the exposition, which introduces us to the characters and the challenges before them. The second is the “rising action” or for simplicity purposes the main events of the plot. Finally, the resolution – or climax and the denouement – is reached, and the story draws to its conclusion. In all cases, the first act is the most important, making us empathize with the protagonists. It can be short or lengthy, but no matter its duration our hopes are for our heroes to succeed.

Joseph LeMay’s story is just being told. Actually, it started ten years ago when the Nashville-based artist first arrived on the scene, but he’s reviving his career through a new project – SONTALK. Fittingly, his never-ending exposition begins with Act I, a three-track EP that is in its own way like a great piece of literary theater.

The record commences with “I Am a War Machine”, which is a fantastic introduction to LeMay’s artistry. With his remarkable, Jim James-esque vocals and a style reminiscent of The War On Drugs’ cinematic interpretation of classic rock, LeMay delivers an exhilarating and embracing song that is among the year’s very best. There is Shakespeare, however, in his poetry, as he reveals and acknowledges his mistakes, vulnerability, and weaknesses despite the underlying tone of strength.

On the beautiful and gentile “Hosánna (God, Damn My Soul)”, LeMay channels Nick Drake. The dream-folk approach is stunning, but LeMay’s gorgeous vocals and songwriting are once again the stars. He quietly recounts the tale of a son who loses his father and his struggles to cope with the days that follow. Religious references abound, but LeMay never gets too preachy. Instead, he is the one seeking forgiveness, as he asks for the one to “save my soul”.

The mini-record ends with the piano ballad “Hurt You”. It’s a love song like none other, as it is filled with remorse, pain, and even regret. “How can you be so selfish? Why would you say those words?”, he longingly asks. But is he asking these questions to a former flame or to himself? Is it even a lover or are the words directed at a parent who places her/himself before the children? Whomever is the focus, the song applies in all cases. Although there is anguish in the words and the song’s tone, a sense of forgiveness lingers in LeMay’s voice, as if he’s begging for one to apologize and confession. Begging her or him to return and start the story anew in much the same way LeMay has with SONTALK.

ACT I is out now via Sony Music Masterworks. Purchasing and streaming links are available here.

LeMay heads out on a mini-tour that commences May 1st. Dates and information are available here.

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