Simon Joyner

(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )

Umbilical Chords , 5/10
Iffy MC , 5/10
Room Temperature , 5/10
The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll , 6/10
Heaven's Gate , 6.5/10
Songs for the New Year , 7/10
Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between , 7/10
The Lousy Dance , 7/10
Hotel Lives , 7/10
Lost With the Lights On (2004), 6.5/10
Skeleton Blues (2006), 5/10
Out Into the Snow (2009), 5.5/10

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 , Ruby Slippers, Halleluja, Double Joe , Ghetto Blaster, Godzilla, Vegetables, Seizure, Pseudonym Song, Scribble, Homebase, Petri-Dish, Leavenworth Cafe Blues, Grapefruit ,

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: 747, Address, I Went to Our Lady of Perpetual Healing, Montgomery, August (Die She Must), Target, Josephine, Javelin, Appendix, Cole Porter, Joy Division. 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). Promethius, Kerosene, Obituary, The Black Dog, Catherine, Three Well Aimed Arrows, You Don't Have to Love Me, Alabaster, Hollywood, 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, Oxygen, Parachute, 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, Eight Verses, Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between , Ballad in the Past, Sinner's Song, Morning is Weary, That Was You, Christine, Came a Yellow Bird, Amen, Don't Miss Your Lover, Goodbye, So Long, Farewell, Goodbye, The Passenger.

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, Sad Stories, 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 lonely self-agonizing. Billy Joel comes to mind also in the upbeat and bouncing 7-minute ode to drinking My Life Is Sweet, with flourishes of spanish guitar. 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 cello-driven fanfare, 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 drumming) and their 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 Ensemble.
Il recente Hotel Lives (***), prodotto da Krassner, e` forse da leggersi come un`opera di transizione. La musica e` piu` rarefatta, il taglio a= lla 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).

Three epic ballads loom over Lost With the Lights On (Jagjaguwar, 2004), Joyner's tenth album featuring Michael Krassner, Fred Lonberg-Holm, guitarist Eric Heywood, pianist Wil Hendricks and Dirty Three's drummer Jim White: the martial and slightly drunk Dreams of Saint Teresa, that perfects his fusion of Leonard Cohen's mood and Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan's pace; the romantic Evening Song to Sally, whose resigned lament is permeated with Latin overtones a` la Desire-era Dylan; and Blue, a slow waltz-like dirge that tests the depths of loneliness. The rest of the collection does not live up to the high standards of these three songs, but the lullaby Birds of Spring, the calm and plain Flying Dreams, the sad singalong Four Birds and even the electric blues romp of Forgotten Blues prove Joyner's eclectic and poetic talent.

Beautiful Losers (Jagjaguwar, 2006) collects singles and compilation tracks from 1994-1999

Skeleton Blues (Jagjaguar, 2006) was a minor work, compared with its predecessors.

Out Into the Snow (Team Love, 2009) sounded like an album created only to accommodate the nine-minute The Drunken Boat. The rest was filler.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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