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Simon Joyner

The Lousy Dance

Truckstop Records


The more Joyner changes, the more he stays the same. And though there are slight nuances in musical style from recording to recording, he's still the same ol' sad sack folkie you knew and loved on his first tape-only release almost a decade ago. His most notable shift in style came on 1998's Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between, his double-CD opus where he reinvented himself into a forlorn Glen Campbell. Unlike his early guitar-and-mic-only days, Joyner is now backed by a full band (most of the time), but still seems to prefer leaning into a good waltz with a dusty six-string. If he started out as an acoustic punk, he's evolved into a coffeeshop cowboy, complete with pedal steel for effect.

With Joyner, a singer whose off-kilter, warbly voice can (and must) grow on you, it's never really been about the music. It's about the words -- the broken stories, the darkly closeted lyrics that weave fortune tellers, storm clouds and lonely, lost, tortured characters seeking redemption on trash-filled, rain-soaked streets, presumably in the Old Market. He's not apologetic about his grim messages that leave critics thinking he's Leonard Cohen's illegitimate wunderkind.

This could be his most realized effort since '94's The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll, still my all-time favorite for its sheer audaciousness. Here he's best when he has a hook to put his tired arms around, like on the Jackson Browne-ish "I Will Find You," a song that would sound comfortable on the FM, and the bouncy "When She Drops Her Veil." Both tracks feature warm keyboards by Wil Hendricks that add an entirely new dimension to Joyner's usually sparse arrangements. These are the pop moments on a CD that, like his others, is centered around a series of dirges in which to wallow. The Lousy Dance will be a long, dark night for all but the patient few who can find the beauty in Joyner's overcast world.

back torevhead.gif (1924 bytes) Published in The Reader, January 13, 2000. Copyright 20000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Rating: Yes