Comparisons to the work of Leonard Cohen would not be inaccurate when describing Simon Joyner’s recordings. However, no matter how much his music and voice is reminiscent of Cohen’s, Joyner’s work remains thoroughly his own. Where Cohen’s early work was steeped in the battle of the sexes, a battle in which he was fully engaged, Joyner retains a dispassionate eye. His lyrics and music remain a witness to the misery that the characters in his songs bear and at times he might pass a judgment but, more often than not, the narrators damn themselves.
As places of rest, hotels are the still points on a journey with a beginning and an end. Not so with the songs on this disk. The hotel lives that Joyner documents on this album are travelers running from one hell to nowhere. They sit in their hotel rooms or float down the halls, unburdening the concierge with their misery. As the opening number, Hotel Suite, states: “And this is as good a place as any I’ve been/This is the peace and quiet you must pay to stay in/There’s a plate-glass window with a view of my skin/It’s too busy out there I think I’ll stay in my hotel suite.”
At other times, Joyner allows the characters to ruminate on their own fates. To contemplate the woe and ruin they’ve brought to themselves and ponder their life unfolding with all the richness that can be found in a hotel room. As the narrator in the track “Nocturne” states: “Now I’m a photograph and you’re a motion picture/You’re gone with the wind and I linger/While all my wine-soaked words turn into vinegar.” Pain, loss and regret seem to fill these songs but, above all, a deathly resignation. This is resignation to the emptiness that their lives have become, replacing the intimacy of a lover with the ghostly flicker of television and a bottle of scotch in an old hotel room.
While what I have described may sound like a miserable listening experience, it is not. It is earnest and heartfelt and the music is simply incredible. At times solo with an acoustic guitar and at other times accompanied with a piano or a cello and trumpet, the music matches the lyrics perfectly. This album is an epic work that unites Joyner’s strong songwriting with his musical skills. Quite possibly this work rivals the accomplishments of Joyner’s own peers and influences.
Truckstop Records, 2255 S. Michigan Ave #4W, Chicago IL 60616; http://www.truckstoprecords.com