Live Review: Simon Joyner at Grapefruit Records; Will Johnson house show Thursday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 8:45 am April 26, 2022
Simon Joyner at Grapefruit Records, April 25, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I was reading the liner notes to Simon Joyner’s new yet-to-be-released album, Songs from a Stolen Guitar, and the writer, James Jackson Toth, said that Joyner recently turned 50, which was a head-spinner. I remember seeing a curly-haired Simon play at the Howard Street Tavern way back in the early ‘90s. It literally seems like yesterday. He was a young gunslinger back then with a rep for being a rising star of national proportions, at least amongst those of us who shopped at The Antiquarium.

There were two things that stood out on his first cassette, Umbilical Chords, which came out in ’92. First, he was one heck of a songwriter in the Bob Dylan vein, a real coffee-shop crooner who could bang out a song on an acoustic guitar with a punk-rock intensity. The second was that he could not give two shits if his voice was off pitch or out of tune, as long as he could convey whatever was on his mind. That Peter Brady-at-puberty singing style followed him through a lot of albums and a lot of live shows and I never knew if he was doing it on purpose or if that’s just the way he sang. And I still don’t know.

But what I do know is that seven years ago, around when he recorded Grass, Branch & Bone, his 13th studio album, that off-pitch warble faded away, and Simon began singing mostly on pitch, on key, rarely stepping in the vocal pot-holes I remembered from his early days. And maybe I’m just imagining things, but his songwriting structures became more concise. Songs that may have had five verses in the past now only had three, and were better for them (to me, anyway), almost as if he was writing pop songs instead of folk songs — tunes like “You Got Under My Skin” and “Yellow Jacket Blues” and the just-released “Tekamah” off the new album are short and sweet, with clever hooks.

And maybe I’m dreaming this, but Simon’s arrangements on his recordings also seemed more straightforward or certainly less complicated than the densely packed, layered sounds heard on 2006’s Skeleton Blues, for instance.

That’s a long-winded way of saying it’s been fun listening to Simon’s style evolve over the past 30 years. Through it all, the songwriting and the lyrics never lacked in depth, incisiveness, heart and soul. That was underscored Monday night at Grapefruit Records as Simon, accompanied only with his guitar, played a selection of songs that spanned from ’94 up to tunes from that new album.

Here’s the set list (that I was there for; I don’t know if he played an encore):

“Three Well-Amed Arrows” from Heaven’s Gate (1995)

“Carolyn’s Got a Secret” from Songs from a Stolen Guitar (2022)

“You Never Know” from Pocket Moon (2019)

“Nocturne” from Hotel Lives (2001)

“Old Days” from Grass, Branch & Bone (2015)

“Javelin” from The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll (1994)

“Don’t Tell Bobby I’m Through Singing These Blues” from Low Fidelities & Infidelities (2019), but also likely a new version that’ll be on the new album

“Evening Song to Sally” from Lost with the Lights On (2004)

“Parachute” from Songs for the New Year (1997)

“Yellow Jacket Blues” from Pocket Moon

“The Actor” from the new album

“My Life is Sweet” from Hotel Lives

The solo acoustic versions of these songs were so good I forgot what the recorded versions sounded like. Based on the audience reaction, a lot of folks in addition to me count “Javelin” as among their favorites. I was lucky to hear him sing it live. I think the last time I watched it performed was at the Cowardly Traveller album release show at Howard Street Tavern.

There were a lot of fellow Omaha musicians scattered among the 50 or so patrons who either sat in chairs or stood among the album racks. I said yesterday this was his first show in four years when in fact it was his first Omaha show in four years — a warm-up for a tour that begins in Europe next week. The new record comes out May 20. I’m hoping he’ll have a formal album release show at some point to give everyone there last night a chance to compare and contrast how those new songs sound played with a full band.

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Speaking of solo acoustic shows, Will Johnson of Centro-matic fame is playing a solo acoustic house show Thursday night in Omaha as part of an Undertow tour (Undertow is a website/company that helps artists book house show tours). Tim Kiefer is the host. For more information (including location) go here, where you can also purchase tickets.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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#BFF & #BSS this weekend (Brion Poloncic (ex-Cactus Nerve Thang)) at Little Gallery; Kasher launches Home Phone; Grapefruit Records opens; and it’s Bandcamp Friday…

Hey there, here’s that column I mentioned last week about not updating my blog in so long and how it will live forever (or at least until I don’t). It’s published in the May issue of The Reader, and online here. Go read it!

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Brion Poloncic’s Weird Therapy opens at The Little Gallery Saturday.

It’s an anomaly similar to the perfect aligning of stars in the sky — both Benson First Friday and Blackstone Second Saturday are this weekend.

BFF you know about. BSS is a new art effort in Blackstone where galleries host openings. To celebrate, The Little Gallery Blackstone (formerly in Benson) is hosting Weird Therapy – a collection of 130 small ink-on-paper works by Brion Poloncic.

Local punk rock fans with a sense of history will remember Poloncic from his work the bands Tomato a Day and seminal Grass Records act Cactus Nerve Thang. Poloncic’s art is as mind-blowing as his music.

The show runs from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday at The Little Gallery Blackstone, 144 So. 39th St. (inside The Mansion just north of Night Owl). The event is free, distance controlled, and wear a mask! Free beer! Come by and say hello.

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In music news, Tim Kasher of Cursive and The Good Life launched a new Patreon called Home Phone. The archive project is a mix of new songs under the Home Phone moniker: “Short, catchy, to-the-point jams – unreleased songs I’ve written for Cursive / The Good Life / solo material that never saw any light of any day,” Kasher said of the project.

The online subscription service costs $6 a month (or $5 a month with annual subscription). The Patreon site will also include live streams, and if this goes the way of other Patreons I’ve seen have, Kasher will be doing all kinds of outlandish things online in no time. Check it out at https://www.patreon.com/timkasher

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In other Kasher news, there’s a massively long video interview with Tim by Bringing It Backwards – the online interview show of American Songwriter magazine. The nearly hour-long interview delves deep into the history of Kasher’s music, Cursive, Saddle Creek Records and more. Check it below.

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Azure Ray has dropped yet another track from their forthcoming album, Remedy, out in June on Flower Moon Records. This one has a good beat, you can dance it, check it out.

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Grapefruit Records opens today in the Old Market.

Simon Joyner’s new record store in the Old Market, Grapefruit, is slated to open today at 11 a.m. The shop, located at 1125 Jackson St., Suite 5, will sell new and used records, and the space will also be the world headquarters of Joyner’s Grapefruit Records label.

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And lest I forget, it’s the first Friday of the month which means Bandcamp Friday – that day when Bandcamp waives fees on its download sales. Go to Bandcamp and buy some stuff!

That’s all I got. Have a great weekend!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Grapefruit Records to open in Old Market; Saddle Creek signs Indigo De Souza; new Cursive interview…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 3:20 pm April 23, 2021

It’s been awhile since I’ve updated the ol’ blog. In fact, I just wrote a column that’ll be published in the May issue of The Reader saying that it’s been a long time since I updated the ol’ blog, but that I haven’t given up — there just hasn’t been anything to write about music-wise (which is basically the lede to the column).

As I continue to point out, ain’t been a whole helluva lot of rock shows to write about, but there has been some news.

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I just discovered via his Instagram page that Omaha singer/songwriter Simon Joyner is about to open a new record store in the Old Market that will also act as the world headquarters of his Grapefruit Records label. The new shop is located at 1125 Jackson St., Suite 5, which appears to be the old Antiques Annex space on 12th street.

Joyner says the store will open either May 1 or May 7, depending on how preparations go, and will feature new and used records. The shop marks the 3rd record store in the Old Market, joining Homer’s and Vinyl Cup. Hey, just like ol’ times…

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The other hometown record label, Saddle Creek Records, has been on a roll lately.

Their most recent release from just-signed act Spirit of the Beehive, ENTERTAINMENT, DEATH, was bestowed with the “Best New Music” honor from Pitchfork, who gave the album a massive 8.3 rating. If you haven’t heard the album yet, grab some headphones and some LSD and enjoy. It’s a… challenging listen, but people love it.

On a more pop-flavored level, Saddle Creek this week announced that it signed Asheville, NC, singer/songwriter Indigo De Souza and is rereleasing her 2018 debut album, I Love My Mom, April 23. De Souza’s sound is more in line with the indie sound you’d hear on something like Sirius XMU — poppy, fun, accessible.

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A week or so ago out of the blue music blog Vinyl Writer Music posted an interview with Cursive’s Matt Maginn.

Matt covers the usual history/influences/Ugly Organ topics before he gets to what’s next for Cursive. He said he’s spent his off time repairing “a couple of bars/pubs in our beloved hometown….” and then goes on to say “Musically, it’s a bit more depressing. We have thrown around lots of long-distance ideas, but we have really not had the time to focus on them….

…I think we will start writing again as soon as it is safe and ideally get back on the road as soon as possible too. We are playing the Psycho Festival in Las Vegas, which we are really looking forward to at the moment. It will give us a chance to feel a little normal again and remember we are a band.

We had to cancel a lot of good shows when the pandemic struck, so we are itching to get out there and play. It sounds like a dream right now to actually return to a life that involves writing, rehearsing, and playing live. It’s funny how one year can really change how you feel about your existence and purpose in the world.

Read the entire interview here.

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That’s all for now. I’m hearing various and sundry things about upcoming music events. Things are happening. We’re almost there. Get vaccinated and we’ll get there sooner.

Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

New Simon Joyner LP out Oct. 24 on Grapefruit…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm August 13, 2019

Simon Joyner’s next album, Pocket Moon, comes out Oct. 23 on Grapefruit Records.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Before we enter full-blown Maha Music Festival coverage, a head’s up that Omaha singer/songwriter/folk-master Simon Joyner announced Saturday that he’s got a new album coming out on Grapefruit Records.

Pocket Moon is available for preorder from grapefruitrecordclub.com and is being co-released in UK/Europe by BB*Island and in Australia/New Zealand by Homeless Records. Recorded this past February in Phoenix, backing Joyner on this LP is an all-star band that includes Michael Krassner, Max Knouse, Joshua Hill, Bennett Sarager, Robin Vining and Ryan Jewell.

More I cannot tell you except the record officially hits the shelves Oct. 24. Will we get a hometown album release show for this one?

Lloyd Cole, Guesswork (2019, Ear Music)

BTW, are oil portrait covers the “new thing”? I ask because here’s the cover of the new Lloyd Cole album, Guesswork, that’s currently playing on my turntable…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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