At times, it’s hard to tell where Simon Joyner’s favorite
records end and he begins. The way he talks as much as sings his way through
“Ambulances” while the violinist does her best John Cale, it wouldn’t sound
more like the Velvet Underground if he threw in a line about selling his body
for smack. A song with “Sunday Morning” in the title follows, but it feels more
like an early Leonard Cohen song (“Hey That’s No Way to Say Goodbye,” perhaps).
There are traces of Dylan everywhere, from the nine-minute opening track, “The
Drunken Boat,” to the drunker-sounding final track, “Roll On.” And Joyner even
strains his voice into a higher register on “Last Evening on Earth,” the song
that sounds more like Neil Young than Reed or Dylan.
If you’re wondering why you’d want to bother with a record
this indebted to old masterpieces you could just as easily throw on instead,
it’s that he’s done a brilliant job of capturing what made those masterpieces
matter in the first place. And it’s not like anybody else is doing better
versions of this music at the moment. When’s the last time Dylan sounded like a
younger version of himself? And Joyner’s always had two aces up his sleeve –
the kind of voice that makes this kind of music sing (or kind of sing) and the
lyrical wherewithal to keep you coming back for more.
Standout Tracks: “The Drunken Boat,” “Ambulances” A. WATT.