On Songs From a Stolen Guitar, Joyner answers the question, “what happens when you point the painter away from the vista?” Always a teller of tales, a shadowbox storyteller with a painter’s tongue, Joyner’s latest was created in isolation, like much that manifested over the past couple of years. Yet, it seems that the caricatures and curios that often populate Simon’s songs live on, no matter how heavy hangs the hermitage. Stories of waiters, rotten souls, disparaged drifters, Hollywood gambles, and yes, stolen guitars still float into view. With life left on pause and even his collaborators adrift, Joyner is still able to create an album that dances across the senses, scrawling stories on the purple undersides of the eyelids just as the drapes get drawn.
The tenderness that Joyner imparts remains the ballast in all his tales. No matter where the characters are dragged Joyner loves them, letting his scuffed rasp add charcoal sketches their stories of heartbreak, hubris, and humiliation. Behind him a band of familiar names lets this record reverberate. The remote recordings let each artist collage in their piece with an attention to detail that gives Songs a finer thread than some of his past albums. David Nance adds guitar and vocals, Ryan Jewell adds a patina of percussion, Ben Brodin organ and vibes, Michael Krassner lends guitar, and Joyner’s friend and labelmate Megan Siebe adds a sunrise of vocal support.
In the years since Simon’s last outing, Pocket Moon, a resurgence of indie-bred country has found its way into the air, but Joyner was in the dust before the lot of them. He’s long been the kind of songwriter that’s spoken about reverently among other songwriters, and on Songs From a Stolen Guitar, he makes quite clear that no matter what the constrictions or conditions, that magical quality remains one of life’s universal truths. There are songwriters that create quiet gems, the kind that get swept up, held close and eventually lofted as the rare moments they were. Joyner creates one after another of these and like Towns and Blaze, Nesmith and Clark, before him. He’s building a catalog that will one day be pored over and pondered, but there’s no need to wait for the reckoning, there’s no better time to start on Joyner than now.
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