on March 27, 2000
Anyone familiar with Wes will know that covers (especially anything pre-"JWH's New Deal") are certainly not his strongest suit. However, the old judge not the book cliche certainly applies here.
"Here Comes the Groom" finds Wes in both fine voice and sharp wit. Tracks like "The red rose and the briar" will inevitably evoke Dylanesque comparisons as the ballad languidly unfurls around your ears. "Things snowball" is a lesson in life for any listener, while "Scared of guns" picks up the tempo in a great counterpoint to the more folky sound of the main.
If you're into Dylan, Elvis Costello or more recently, Elliott Smith, then John Wesley Harding will certainly not disappoint!
on May 6, 1998
This CD rocks! With "The Good Liars" behind him (Bruce and Pete Thomas are just two members), this is JWH's first album and perhaps his best. Loaded with metaphor, the lyrics reflect creative and intelligent song writing, whether sung to a rocking or more mellow tune. A great horn section accompanies on a few tracks so the music never becomes dull--you can listen to it straight through time and time again. Whether you are into folk, just getting into it or not even interested, you'll love this one.
on January 28, 2002
Brit folkie John Wesley Harding (born Wesley Harding Stace) unleashed his first studio album in 1990 to widespread comparisons to Elvis Costello (he released an acoustic live session previous to Here Comes the Groom entitled It Happened One Night). It doesn't help that two members of the Good Liars happen to be Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas, Elvis Costello's rhythm section. Oh well.
Point of order: it doesn't really sound like EC at all, at all. It's true that the lyrics are cynical and witty,... and JWH often displays a fondness for a tempo-changing bridge (like EC and Ray Davies).
What this is is a stunning combination of traditional English folk, combined with liberal touches gleaned from pop and new wave, with a catchiness hard to find outside of American power pop (think DB's or Marshall Crenshaw). Call it Power Folk.
HE'S NOT EC, Point 2: JWH's vocals are consistently clear and sunny, giving even the most cynical observation an air of amused good cheer ("He was unfaithful before he went outdoors/And now he's in the graveyard" from the title track). If EC sang this, it would be an accusatory, you-got-what-you-deserved line, in JWH's hands, it becomes a sly comeuppance for the philandering groom, and a lot more fun. (This is not meant to put down Costello, just to point out that JWH has his own identity. To rephrase: JWH's vocals usually point to the light, EC's to the shadows.)...
Consistent and clever throughout, owing as much to traditional folk as it does to modern pop and new wave, this is simply a fantastic album by a true, unrecognized talent. If I had the wherewithal, this would get 6 stars out of 5. One of the best studio debuts EVER.
on December 18, 2012
I will always be grateful to my brother-in-law for turning me onto this record. JWH is a folkier artist that the punks can like. Brilliant stuff. My favorites have always been the first several tracks, so I would say it has a very strong and catchy start followed by many songs that are gems but might take a few more listens to appreciate and get into. One of my all time favorites.
on May 29, 2002
I first heard of John Wesley Harding in 1990 when I read an article comparing him to Elvis Costello. Out of curiosity I picked up "Here Comes the Groom" and 12 years later it's still one of my all-time favorite albums. There is definitely a case for an EC comparison here, but also a healthy dose of Phil Ochs, Bob Dylan and Billy Bragg. Wes' backing band includes Bruce Thomas and Pete Thomas (of Elvis Costello's Attractions), as well as ace session musicians Steve Donnelly and Kenny Craddock and a beautiful duet with the unfortunately obscure Peter Case. British cult favorite Tom Robinson also lends a hand.
Highlights for me include the glorious, Hammond organ-drenched "An Audience With You," the hilarious "The Devil in Me" and the beautiful acoustic epic "The Red Rose and the Briar."
Wes' songs tend to be moving without being maudlin. His self-deprecating sense of humor and wonderful sense of melody combine to make a fantastic album. There are maybe two weak tracks in the whole bunch, but the other songs more than make up for it.
If you're a fan of Elvis Costello, Billy Bragg or any other thinking person's British singer-songwriter who isn't a flavor-of-the month, you'll love John Wesley Harding. This is a very difficult disc to find, so order it now! If you like it, try "The Confessions of St. Ace."