Joshua Hedley…. So hot right now. Mugatu silliness aside, the sentiment is indestructibly true. If you’re in Nashville, have access to any form of media (this site included), then you’ve inevitably been exposed some form of Joshua Hedley coverage. It’s not quite a barrage, but more than a light spray; thoroughly moistened, but not quite soaked. (Questionable) water metaphor aside, Hedley has - after more than a decade - hit his (rightful) stride.
Arguably one of the most deserving ascendants in Nashville (and music, in general), Hedley’s debut LP, Mr. Jukebox, has more than justifiably worked its way into not only many critical “Best of” lists, but even my own. Granted, the latter may or may not be saying much, depending on how you view my own purview, but if you’re reading this/frequenting the site, then you, at the very least, must tolerate it. But that’s neither here nor there, the moral of the story is that Joshua Hedley has reached a new threshold, and he’s more than capable to carry the expectation that coincides.
Much like the wrestling stars Hedley holds in such high regard, he’s adopted a unique role in the greater world of country music. He’s a self-deprecating, quietly sardonic artist unlike most of his “new age old school” (that might not make any sense, who knows) contemporaries that seem slightly too self aware.
Hedley is what he is - a true talent who ultimately just lives to play his songs. There’s no pretense, no wink to the crowd, or satirical snark - just good old fashioned country music tunes, both his own and those of the greats. And it’s easy to understand when you see Hedley in person. His only concern is a good show that leaves not only the audience, but his own self satisfied with what transpires over a set.
His most recent, non-Robert’s, Nashville set was in fact the album release show for his Mr. Jukebox LP, and the night went about as ideally as one could hope for in a Joshua Hedley show. Hedley, The Hedliners, and the Hedettes ran through ostensibly all of Mr. Jukebox with some excellent ease, but that was expected.
The curveball in the set was when all of Hedley’s backers made their way off the stage, and Hedley stood alone in his snappy teal Union Western Clothing custom suit. That was the moment the real Mr. Jukebox action happened. Hedley went back to his roots - gigging down on Broadway, taking $20 requests, this time without the tips - the process which granted him the nickname “Mr. Jukebox.” He played some George Jones (“Walk Through This World With Me”), some Vern Gosdin (“If You’re Gonna Do Me Wrong”), and of course, some Paycheck, with the more than fitting “Old Violin.” You better believe the crowd was beside themselves with joy when Hedley fielded requests.
Ultimately, Hedley’s banner year is a fantastic sign for Nashville, and as he put it, “It only took Nashville about 50 years to like the Nashville sound.” But better late than never, right? If Hedley’s the one helping usher in the era of Nashville’s newest Nashville Sound, then let it be so, because that’ll be the right way to go.