Omaha’s Simon Joyner has a painter’s tongue and his way with words lays out a landscape caked with the dust of an American promise gone to seed. He’s carving out simple truths that lie ignored on the shelves of corner shops and gas stations next to quarter juices barrels and car parts – dreams deferred, expired, or squandered. There’s something small in Joyner’s songs, and that’s not a slight, he’s a man who not only notices the minutia, but finds the poetry that radiates through it. Between the grease of diner eggs, borrowed prescriptions, and beers beset by nagging end of season bees, Joyner finds a humanity that seems to have been obscured by the constant clip that life acquired when it got wired up. Joyner snips the sizzle and slows it down to just the tangibles. He drains out the seep of over-saturation and lets things snap back into their naturally rusted hues once more.
There’s been a tendency to compare Joyner to Townes Van Zandt over the years, and that’s apt. I won’t fight it. Both artists share an innate ability to paint a picture that focuses on the cracked hinges and weathered wood rather than the crowd pushing through the door. He trades in vignettes of normalcy giving the slightest details the weight and worth they deserve. The details are small, but the scars they leave run deep. Like Townes, Joyner’s got a wry wit that’s in a constant tug ‘o war with his realist’s melancholy. He’s able to devastate the heart but slip in a grin at the end to stem the tears, or at least sop them up a bit.
Underneath Pocket Moon drips a subtle country cavalcade that wraps his words in heavy sighs and deep set hues. Joyner’s been working with a consistent crew of locals who’ve been seasoned in his soul for years. Yet for Pocket Moon he steps away and throws himself into the unknown, relocating to Phoenix and set adrift into the hands of a crew of players assembled by his longtime collaborator Michael Krassner. The trust is warranted, to say the least, as the players shape this into one of Joyner’s finest offerings. The album is tender, polished by his standards, but not overly so. The players step back and let Joyner shine, but like true seasoned session troupes they shade in the edges with a sound that elevates the songs. It’s been said that Joyner is your favorite songwriter’s favorite songwriter, and that’s largely true, but if he hasn’t found his way into your own repertoire until now, this is a fantastic starting point. Wade deep, and then swim backwards into his vast revue. In the meantime, Pocket Moon is working its way the essentials list for 2019 and getting hard to beat.
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