The Shed, by Josh King
The shed came with the house when Josh King and his wife bought it a couple years ago, and it wasn’t much: four close walls of plywood and a door, with a tiny roof and shake shingles.
“It was a straight-up wood workshop,” King recalls. “The walls were thin plywood with hooks for his tools. There was a big, old wooden worktable. Spiders and shit everywhere.”
And so it was, until late last year. King had worked as a carpenter for a couple of years after his band, House of Fools, hung up their gear for a bit and before the birth of his daughter, Lydia. He went after the shed with the idea of making a man cave where he could retreat from the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood.
“I took down the plywood and put up drywall, carpet, baseboards, crown molding,” King says. “I made it into a room, you know?”
Later, he had another thought.
On the road to Nashville for a gig, or maybe they were headed back, fellow musician Mark Kano told him about these new, portable, 24-track digital mixers.
“I said, ‘Man, I’m gonna get me one of those,’” King recalls. Just like that, the shed became a recording studio. And then the coronavirus descended. With little else for a professional musician to do, King began spending more and more time out there. The end result is The Shed, a five-track effort by the former House of Fools frontman and his second solo effort since 2018’s Into the Blue.
It begins with “Man on TV,” the first cut and the first to be written and recorded. It’s about the pandemic, its message nestled in acoustic guitar, Beatle-esque rhythms and chord progressions that harken back to King’s earlier years. This could be a House of Fools song, and in a way it is: former Fools Jack Foster and Joel Kiser contributed tracks from their home studios, and the chorus is laden with the voices of a half-dozen friends.
There’s no road ahead/We’ll all be dead/We’ll have to pay the cost.
All is lost so put it all behind ya.
Another coronavirus-inspired cut, “Doing Time,” sounds like it might have been written after staring at the shed’s four tight walls for a little too long, the sentiment softened by gentle guitar and quiet harmonies.
“On My Own” is a slow rocker, with crunchy guitars and self-awareness — a love song, but for married folks. Likewise with the Weezer-esque “Side by Side,” which could be about his wife, or his daughter, or both.
Family is a recurring theme: The Shed’s charming intro and outro come from an ancient recording of his grandfather singing and playing piano.
“At one point he and my mom’s two sisters, they had a little trio and they would go play at radio stations and stuff like that,” King says. “He was also a tap dancer. He was a performer for sure.”
King and his pals may be at their best on “Give Up on Love,” an Americana jangle that wouldn’t sound out of place coming off a stage in Nashville, save for that optimistic upturn in the melody and the subtle Hammond organ work in the background, courtesy of former Fool Julian Sizemore.
Fools stick around.
“When any of us does a solo project,” King says, “You can always expect another Fool to be on it.”
King says the Fools, scattered though they may be, are still playing together, still writing together and working on a new release.
“If it wasn’t for the pandemic,” King says, “We’d be working on our second song on the next House of Fools release.”
No further word on that House. For now, King is satisfied with the one he built in his backyard.
The Shed will be available on SoundCloud, BandCamp, iTunes and all streaming platforms starting Nov. 20.