Album Review – Josie Toney’s “Extra”

Maybe you recognize Josie Toney as the fiddle player and harmonizer that helped underpin the rabid success of Sierra Ferrell and her band for the last few years, or maybe you don’t. Or maybe if you’re from the Northwest or the Boston area and kick around the roots scene, perhaps you recognize her from projects before then. But either way, Josie Toney has officially struck out on her own with an album she’s calling Extra that’s full of her original songs, and it’s proving she shouldn’t be typecast as a side player. She’s got music and a sound that’s all her own, and deserves her own dedicated spotlight.

Originally from Olympia, Washington with a family history in music including old-time and other traditional styles, Josie Toney is so much more than just a fiddle player. A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, she received the Sam Eisenson Award for Country Music from the prestigious music school, and also won the FreshGrass fiddle championship in 2019. She’s now taking all of her time learning, practicing, studying, playing for others, and teaching as a private instructor, and putting it all on red in service of her own career.

Extra is everything you were hoping Josie Toney’s debut album would be. When she sings, Toney evokes the ghosts of the classic country era by mixing old-school country with old-school blues indicative at times of Hank One. You may think of her as an instrumentalist first, but the album showcases a confident and seemingly effortless vocal delivery with plenty of pain and emotion behind the lyrics, and even the appearance of a yodel.

This album captures Josie Toney in a time of young adulthood where you work all day, and trek out at night searching for love, only to often strike out or to be led down primrose paths to heartbreak. Listening through Extra, it’s not hard to envision Josie sitting on the edge of her bed in a lonely apartment, plucking on a guitar and chewing on the end of a pen, composing out her sincere feelings of loneliness and frustration in real time, and in a way that’s palpable to us all no matter our personal stage in life.

“Cryin’ Lonesome” is some Hank Sr. level country blues sadness, and “Nobody’s Gonna Cry For Me” turns it up even another notch with the extra touch of a console steel guitar mimicking the cry of the yearning heart. Imbuing each song with autobiographical authenticity like “City Girl Blues” just allows each verse to sink its teeth into you that much more. Homesick and lonesome, “Extra” about being filled up with love but nobody to give it to is hard to not fall for. You hope for Josie’s sake that she finally finds the love she’s seeking, but you’re selfishly thankful for the time she spent alone since it have rise to such beautifully devastating songs.

Make no mistake about it, Extra announces Josie Toney as the latest artist to enter the realm of 50s-inspired classic country artists who can evoke the Golden Era of country with modern appeal in a way that quenches old souls. Producer Rachel Baiman (an accomplished performer and songwriter herself) did a great job helping to pick the right accompaniments to Toney’s songs, and evoking the proper era by instrument and tone selection.

It’s been so frustrating over the last few years as independent country artists have been on such a significant rise, but women haven’t always found equal success to their male counterparts. As Sierra Ferrell has shown promise in breaking through that ceiling, others like Josey Toney can hopefully join in on that success by proxy. Extra certainly has the gusto to find Josie Toney an audience. And it’s one she’s earned all on her own.

8/10

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