Simon Joyner

The Lousy Dance

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Lyrically, Simon Joyner's songs -- sung in a harrowing, world-weary voice recalling celebrated "beautiful loser"-type songsmiths like Fred Neil and Townes Van Zandt -- are rich with images of sad people, lonely lovers, and dark, rainy street corners. In fact, inclement weather is often a central lyrical theme in this Midwestern gothic singer/songwriter's material, and often acts as a metaphor for an impending tempestuous situation. There's also an inherent melancholy throughout this album. In "Fool's Gold on Main St.," the narrator finds himself alienated and isolated in his hometown, wondering why everyone he passes on the street seems like a stranger: "What happened to Blake and Eric, Douglas, Phil and Amanda?/What happened to Jennifer the Great who loved me before anyone?/They're flying into the ground or walking high around my city/While my head is just some town you wouldn't want to visit/It's crowded and all the people look ghostly." The Lousy Dance -- released in 1999 -- marks Joyner's first use of complex full-band instrumentation, perhaps an attempt to distance himself from the angular, sparse, unembellished arrangements of his earlier recordings. Even so, you can still imagine Joyner, a married father of three, writing his poignant, loping waltzes and sad-sack laments in the dull lambency of four o'clock in the morning while his family is sound asleep in another part of the house. Joyner is assisted here by a talented group of musicians, including bassist Ryan Hembrey (Pinetop Seven) and several ex-players with Edith Frost: Glenn Kotche, Mike Krassner, and Joe Ferguson (the latter two run the Chicago-based Truckstop label and studio where this album was recorded).

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