* PRE-ORDER * release date: 20th May, 2022
Limited to 100 Translucent Dark Red with Black Marble colour vinyl copies and 100 classic black.
Vinyl LP housed in deluxe tip-on sleeve.
Note: This is a pre-order, the release date is May 20th so it will begin shipping a week or two before that date. This is being released by Grapefruit for all territories but geographical Europe and NZ & Australia. If you are in Europe please order the album from BB*Island HERE and if you are in the USA you can order it from Grapefruit Records HERE.
Songs from a Stolen Guitar
Artists are not athletes. The career of the athlete is, by mortal necessity, compressed and brief. No one expects to see a professional slugger in their sixties out on the diamond, much less see them vying for a pennant. Artists, on the other hand, tend to age like wine — think Dylan, Cohen, and Cash — with the most rarefied among them capable of swinging for the fences with every at bat.
Omaha singer-songwriter Simon Joyner, who recently turned fifty, is such an artist, and while I’d certainly enjoy seeing his face grinning at me from a box of Wheaties, I’d rather he continue making albums like Songs From A Stolen Guitar.
Joyner, who’s been making records since 1990, has been on a roll since his mid-career magnum opus, 2012’s Ghosts, one of the great double albums of the past 25 years. On Songs From A Stolen Guitar, he is abetted by collaborators new and old, but the social distancing required by the pandemic of 2020 imbues the album with a distinct and poignant tenor.
The remoteness of the individual players on Songs From A Stolen Guitar, while necessarily eliminating some of the ragged spontaneity of much of Joyner’s previous work, yields a sort of silver-lining effect: Joyner’s songs, produced more meticulously and perhaps more intentionally here than on any of his previous albums, cut through that much cleaner, foregrounding both his dazzling wordplay and his clarity of vision. If Ghosts was his Tonight’s the Night — clamorous, naked, and unmoored — Songs From A Stolen Guitar may just turn out to be his Harvest.
Songs From A Stolen Guitar was recorded across several different cities. Joyner recorded his vocals and guitar live in Omaha; bassist Wil Hendrix added his parts at home in San Francisco, Michael Krassner recorded his guitar and piano overdubs at home in Phoenix, and drummer / percussionist Ryan Jewell recorded in Colorado. This musical chain letter then made its way back to Omaha where David Nance (guitars and backing vocals), Ben Brodin (organ and vibraphone), and Megan Siebe (viola and backing vocals) overdubbed — separately — their respective contributions.
As with any album recorded and / or released in the midst of wide scale upheaval, it is easy to read into these songs, and the performances of them, a thread of alienation, loneliness, and loss.
“The album wrestles with themes of isolation, so it was fitting that the musicians were alone to figure out their parts,” says Joyner, “and the overall atmosphere of the record is stark, and reflects that kind of isolation and first person point of view.” Joyner even asked drummer Ryan Jewell to avoid using a traditional drum kit, and to eschew cymbals entirely, to draw attention to rather than away from the isolated, unnatural nature of the recording.
The gambit pays off. The “virtual” band plays a supporting but complementary role throughout, always generating the appropriate amount of tension to accompany and swaddle these quixotic and emotionally charged stories populated by broken sunsets, haiku dreams, and chandelier spiderwebs. Indeed, the interplay is sensitive and cohesive, albeit mediated by geographical distance, often sounding like music filtered through the mist of an autumn morning.
Still, when it comes to Simon Joyner records, you pay your ticket to hear great songs, and in this category, too, Songs From A Stolen Guitar does not disappoint. The stirring “Tekamah,” boasting a strong and scene-stealing harmony vocal by Nance, is road trip sing along-worthy; the tender and beguiling “Caroline’s Got A Secret” reimagines the twilight elegance of the third Velvets album as a melancholy mystery; the introspective and sublime “The Actor” introduces us to a damaged yet imperishable character who coughs up blood and confronts ghosts reflected in the mirror; “Live In The Moment” — in which Joyner mischievously teases us with a bit of autobiography — wrings from its title’s platitude a panorama of vivid characters and situations via lyrics that are pure poetry (“I was hiding like the pulse on a newborn’s wrist”).
It turns out that the limitations imposed on the creation of Songs From A Stolen Guitar are, ultimately, serendipitous. The result is the rare album that sounds like what it’s about: the chasm that separates loneliness from aloneness, the lines between love and surrender, the distinction between the tornado and what it leaves behind.
-James Jackson Toth
Watch video of first single, “Tekamah,”
Video by Frances Inez Joyner.