The Lousy Dance
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
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 to Published in The Reader, January 13, 2000. Copyright © 20000 Tim McMahan.
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