In March 2012, singer songwriter Joshua Ketchmark released ‘The Bittersweet’, the first of a proposed trilogy of EPs. Produced by Denny Smith, the release showed off Ketchmark’s abilities to lay down enjoyable hook-laden tunes in a radio-friendly pop-rock style. His second EP, ‘The Dreamers Disease’, again focuses on hook-laden tunes, but is by no means just a retread of the previous release. Smith’s place in the producer’s chair this time around has been taken by Kenny Wright (also of The Great Affairs) and Ketchmark’s decision to bring in a handful of alt-country session guys means these four songs are sometimes presented with more of a rootsy/country rock groove.
‘Step Back’ combines a country rock ethic with the presence of a power-ballad. The verses are structured around acoustic guitar lines, over which Ketchmark appears in rather fine vocal form. For the chorus, things shift up several gears as heartfelt song writing comes blended with a stadium rock intensity. All the while, the country-rock elements never seem too far away, with a steel guitar (played by Tony Paoletta) lurking in the background. ‘It Should Have Been More’ – a roots-rock arrangement again augmented by steel guitars – is the EP’s strongest offering, and while the arrangement at first sounds relatively simple, closer listens reveal some great touches mandolin, (courtesy of Bonepony man Nicolas Nguyen). While the lyrical themes of regret are well worn, Ketchmark really excels vocally – an absolutely first rate performance. Musically, it could be described as Bon Jovi (circa ‘Endless Highway’) as played by Ryan Adams & The Cardinals in a tough mood. Although such a flippant description does not really do this track justice, keeping that in mind, you should at least get a hint of what to expect.
The EP’s “odd man out”, ‘Mission Jar’ is far more aggressive. Although it doesn’t quite fit the alternative rock moods of Ketchmark’s previous EP, it doesn’t really have a comfortable place here either. The rhythm guitars lay down a scratchy tune, angular but not quite settling into the funk groove it half-promises, while the lead guitars are surprisingly upfront. It is an interesting number on which Ketchmark sounds vocally cool, but it is a tune which, maybe, ought to have been left on the shelf until a more fitting home became available… The single release ‘Saving Grace’ is a slice of upbeat pop/rock on which the blend of acoustic and electric guitars meshing well, while some old-school organ (played by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Peter Keys) recalls The Wallflowers. A slight mood change for a big chorus leans more toward a New Jersey sound and, after a couple of spins, it is so obvious why this was chosen as the lead track. Its goodtime, optimistic qualities and another strong melody makes it ideal for radio.
Those who enjoyed ‘The Bittersweet’ EP and Joshua Ketchmark’s previous releases may find ‘The Dreamers Disease’ a little less instant, but once again, his gift for song writing often wins out. The EP’s two strongest tracks (the wonderful ‘Should Have Been More’ and ‘Step Back’) are enough to recommend this release…and if you dig those, that could just enough to make you wish this had been a full-length disc exploring similar styles.