Simon Joyner is a solitary songwriter born in New Orleans but based in Omaha (Nebraska).
Born in New Orleans in 1971 from Alabama-native parents, he moved to the north
still a child, but kept visiting the south frequently.
His formative years as a songwriter yielded very personal collections like
Umbilical Chords (One-Hour, 1992) and
Iffy MC (Sing Eunuchs, 1993 - Unread, 2003).
Most songs told sad stories of simple lives and were played by Joyner himself
on guitar and little else.
Room Temperature (One-Hour, 1993) is another album entirely played by
Joyner (guitar and harmonica), still in the proud tradition of Woody
Guthrie and early Bob Dylan.
Folk Song For Sara,
The Shortest Distance Between Two Points is a Straight Line ,
Double Joe ,
Leavenworth Cafe Blues,
The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll (Sing Eunuchs, 1994) was his first
vinyl record and added electric guitar, drums
(courtesy of friend Chris Deden) and piano:
I Went to Our Lady of Perpetual Healing,
August (Die She Must),
The same year Joyner also contributed
Burn Rubber and Fluoride to
the split single Why You All So Thief? (Sing Eunuchs, 1994).
Heaven's Gate (Sing Eunuchs, 1995 - Brinkman 1996) perfected his
sparse, delicate, dreamy style.
The quantum leap forward really came from the arrangements, that finally
left behind the folk standard and delved into atmospheric textures,
thanks to a small chamber ensemble of
organ, violin (Alex McManus, a member of Lambchop and Vic Chesnutt's band),
cello (Joyce Roper), banjo, mandolin,
accordion (Bill Hoover) and percussions (Chris Deden).
The Black Dog,
Three Well Aimed Arrows,
You Don't Have to Love Me,
Farewell to a Percival.
Warm and sad, these songs bring back memories of Leonard Cohen.
Songs for the New Year (Sing Eunuchs, 1997) is more of the same,
the sound getting almost baroque. Joyner now enjoys conducting his little
orchestra, that has enrolled Bob Garfield on lap steel and George Peek on bass.
the seven-minute The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll,
New Year's Song,
the seven-minute Two Friends take a Bow for the Record ,
the seven-minute When Will the Sun Rise Again?,
Born of Longing,
I Wrote a Song About the Oceans,
the eight-minute Disappear From Here.
Joyner established himself as a major voice in modern songwriting and
arranging with the sprawling double-album
Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between (Sing Eunuchs, 1998), one of
the milestone recordings of that year, a glorious and highly personal
summary of the aesthetic of Dylan, Young and Cohen.
For this impressive endeavour, Joyner surrounded himself with seasoned
professionals such as
Mike Krassner, Glen Kotche and Joseph Ferguson of Edith Frost's band,
bassist Ryan Hembrey of Pinetop Seven,
pianist Deanna Vargona of Lambchop,
keyboardist Scott Tuma (a former Souled American),
and pianist Liz Conant, besides regulars Deden and McManus.
The ensemble excels at both stark piano ballads and
sumptuous pop, while Joyner does not hesitate to wear his old folksinger
clothes or lead the band into a country-rock number.
A bit of Giant Sand's existential laziness keeps everything in check.
Standouts include the ten-minute meditation Eight Verses,
the 11-minute cinematic closer The Passenger
and the pretty elegy Christine.
Bring Down Goliath,
Cold Outside Your Window, Mama,
Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between ,
Ballad in the Past,
Morning is Weary,
That Was You,
Came a Yellow Bird,
Don't Miss Your Lover,
Goodbye, So Long, Farewell, Goodbye,
The year was crowned by the single
One For The Catholic Girls (Wurlitzer Jukebox, 1998), with
the Fallen Men, and the
The Christine EP (Secretly Canadian, 1998), that collected unreleased
tracks dating from 1994 (John Train's Blues,
Courting Mary, Everything's At Stake,
Yellow Precious Letter ).
The EP The Motorcycle Accident (Roomtone, 1999) marks a reunion with
the Fallen Men (Chris Deden on organ,
Lonnie Methe on violin and Brad Smith on percussions).
Thoughts Of A Dog,
Flowers On Her Birthday,
I Ask Of You These Things,
Tom Paine #1/#2,
There Was A Time.
The Lousy Dance (Truckstop 1999) boasts a completely renewed line-up:
Ken Vandermark on clarinet, Jessica Billey on violin,
Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello,
Jeb Bishop on trombone,
Charles Kim on pedal steel,
Ernst Long on flugelhorn and trumpet,
Will Hendricks on piano, accordion and vibes
join the core quartet of Chris Deden on percussion, Ryan Hembrey on bass,
Glenn Kotche on percussions and Michael Krassner on electric guitar.
Lambchop's chamber folk is now the most obvious
reference, but Joyner's songs still have Leonard Cohen written all over them.
And his soul-searching poetry has never been more romantic and erudite.
The wonders of the instruments and the wonders of the words somehow find
a magic balance that turns Joyner's songs into metaphysical journeys.
The Lousy Dance,
I Will Find You,
the seven-minute Fool's Gold on Main St.,
the seven-minute Long Dark Night,
It Will Never Be This Way Again,
the six-minute When She Drops Her Veil,
the six-minute The Rain Asked For A Holiday,
the eight-minuteJohn Train Blues.
Hotel Lives (Truckstop, 2001) opens with
the oneiric guitar timbres of Hotel Suite, one of Joyner's literate
poems, only accidentally delivered as a song,
a confession of loneliness and confusion uttered in a raucous Dylan-ian voice.
Insomnia advances at Neil Young's solemn pace, with a bit of Billy Joel's
Billy Joel comes to mind also in the upbeat and bouncing
7-minute ode to drinking My Life Is Sweet, with flourishes of spanish
And Only Love Will Bring You Peace has the tender, naive, ecstatic
feeling of Donovan's baroque lullabies.
But Cohen's slow and deep crooning is just round the corner, lulling
Blue Hammer, a nostalgic
black hole that only radiates symbolic images,
Now We Must Face Each Other, a slow-motion
or She Without Shelter, a waltz-paced yodeling whine.
The slow, quiet, firm 7-minute rant of Your Old Haunts
is one of his sweetest compositions ever,
Joyner is clearly relishing the renewed sparseness of his sound.
Depression is acute in The House, a funereal chant drowned in
drones of strings.
The nostalgy is no less naked on
How I Regret That I've Done Wrong.
Joyner has vastly increased the complexity of his compositions
(You David Maria and Me shoots stark piano figures against a voodoo beat
while strings murmur in the background,
the 9-minute country-rocker Geraldine with saloon-piano and loud
allegorical charge sometimes approaches that of Nick Cave's parables
(especially with lines like "only the guilty are ever really innocent").
Compared with his latest albums, this one is a sparser, more subdued affair.
The band has been completely revolutionized and,
except for an occasional trumpet, cello or clarinet, the guitars rule again.
single Here Come The Balloons (Tongue Master, 2003)
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Lorenzo Casaccia) |
Simon Joyner e` un cantautore solitario da Omaha, Nebraska. Il suo
introverso talento e` sempre stato troppo timido per concedergli il
relativo successo di un Joe Henry.
I suoi primi dischi, all`inizio degli anni `90, sono confessioni per
voce, chitarra e armonica nello stile di Guthrie e Dylan. Con gli anni si
arricchiscono gli arrangiamenti fino a raggiungere il picco del periodo
pre-Truckstop con il doppio Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between (Sing
Eunuchs, 1998) (****), con un gruppo che comprende Krassner, Tuma e la
band di Edith Frost.
Il passaggio alla Truckstop porta anche una nuova line-up: The Lousy
Dance (*** =BD) e` folk da camera cantato con piglio alla Cohen e
arrangiato da una formazione che e` molto prossima al Boxhead
Il recente Hotel Lives (***), prodotto da Krassner, e` forse da leggersi
come un`opera di transizione. La musica e` piu` rarefatta, il taglio a=
Cohen e` ancora molto forte e spiccano gli arrangiamenti classicheggianti
di Lonberg-Holm. I brani sono a volte piu` complessi e si appoggiano
parecchio sulle suggestioni alla Nick Cave delle liriche (ad esempio con
versi come "only the guilty are ever really innocent", solo il
colpevole puo` essere veramente innocente).