Those who favor the magnetizing honesty of singer-songwriters will find it easy to peg the sound Cory Joseph is going for on his sophomore release, the EP Throwing Stones. That doesn't necessarily mean that the Long Beach-based musician is readily imitating popular predecessors like Tyrone Wells or Rocco Deluca---even though his engineer, Chris Karn, has worked with both of them.
Toeing the line between guitar-driven pop and bluesy grit, Joseph (formerly of the band Sleeping Me) explores various corners of his musical past to uncover a new, sentimental and eclectic sound.
It's a sound he tries to capture on the opening title track, a rugged, rock guitar riff plods along with drums and keys. Joseph's vocals share some quivering kinship with Deluca. Although at it's lowest point, the straight-ahead rock recalls Nickleback. However, those moments in the song are few and far between.
Themes of love and love lost dominate the disc. The only difference between Joseph and most other weepy singer-songwriters crooning about this stuff is the maturity it takes to understand how to move on from heartbreak. Case-in point, lyrics from "She Deserves to Be Happy:" "Now you take that plane to the east coast/ And don't take my picture with you / Starting over and away from these palm trees/ And these beaches/ I won't call you / But I can't promise I won't want to."
Though the touching balladry and flourishes of piano and acoustic guitar are bountiful on the EP's six tracks, Joseph is at his best when he turns up the amps. As the former front man of the band Sleepless Me, Joseph has a researchable rock background. However, his song "Better This Time" seems to surpass most of what you could hear from his past work. Offering a simple and emotive soul sound that teeters on the right side of cliche, the track offers a shimmering, energized chorus and a much needed punch toward the end of the record. At one point, you can feel your skin tingle as Joseph implements highest reaches of his tremulous vocal register.
Ending on the soft, sentimental closer "Come to Me," it is debatable how much Joseph's EP stands out among the wash of talented singer-songwriters working the coffee-shop circuit. One thing to keep in mind is that his passionate live show outshines his record. That's usually the sign of a promising artist---did you know he won "Best Male Performer" at the Socal Cal Live Acoustic Competition in 2007 and 2008? Though much of what we've heard on Throwing Stones has been done before, Joseph's vocal talent is enough to make you stick with this disc to the end--and perhaps even return to more than once.