Release Date: Mar 17, 2015
Record label: Woodsist
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi
Simon Joyner’s new album is not going to be the one that brings him to the masses, and he’s probably okay with that, having made it known in numerous interviews that he is content to spend his quality time with his family and his antique business. Joyner writes songs in the service of his own personal muse, and, while he is appreciative of being appreciated, he can work from the perspective of owing the music industry nothing. He tours sparingly, not wanting to be away too long from his Omaha, Nebraska home, playing house parties, it seems, as often as formal venues.
Do they have campfires in Omaha, Nebraska? Because Simon Joyner's Grass, Branch & Bone sounds like the music some inspired drifter would be playing late at night on a cool spring evening, with some brothers of the road helping him out. Grass, Branch & Bone captures Joyner in his familiar, Dylan-esque style, singing with craggy eloquence as he and his backing musicians play his bittersweet melodies with bass, drum, and fiddle dominating the spare backdrops that wind around Joyner's tunes. After the stylistic wild cards of Joyner's 1993 collaboration with Dennis Callaci, New Secrets, Grass, Branch & Bone finds him in the sort of form longtime fans would expect, but if the dour folkiness of this set doesn't hold much in the way of surprises, nothing here sounds rote.
There’s probably no such thing as a bright and breezy Simon Joyner album, but Grass, Branch and Bone might be the closest we get to one. Mind you, compared to its oppressive, hour and a half long predecessor Ghosts, almost anything would sound lighter. But this is undoubtedly one of the most carefree entries in Joyner’s discography. There’s very little in the way of his usual discordant electric guitar lines, battling against melody and groove at every turn.
Every locale must have at least a few of them — "guitar poets," as Simon Joyner calls them, uninterested in making pretty music and therefore able to create something that cuts to the heart of things, though it may fly under the radar. Omaha, Nebraska-based songwriter Joyner, who counts Conor Oberst and Gillian Welch amongst his fans, and reminds me an awful lot of Canadians like Kyp Harness and Al Tuck, certainly falls into this category. Grass, Branch & Bone is Joyner's 13th album, a collection of rainy day ballads and late night ruminations so stripped down that at first it sounds like he's sing-talking almost atonally over his guitar.