REVIEW: Joe Nolan’s “Drifters” is Wordplay Prowess and Sincere Sentimentality


This predominately acoustic collection highlights Joe Nolan’s word play prowess and sincere sentimentality. His first out on Fallen Tree Records, Drifters, finds Nolan teaming with engineer Scott Franchuk (Riverdale Recorders, Edmonton, Canada). In the midst of the cacophony of noise that constantly fills modern life Nolan’s turn toward simple arrangement and minimal accompaniment offers welcomed respite. Over ten tracks Nolan mines the trials, travesties, and triumphs of life’s journey; deep in that mine Nolan strikes a vein of sequestered gold.

Opening with “Kisses in the Dark,” Nolan establishes high expectations for this set early. Over a lonesome fingerpicked acoustic guitar accompanied by slide flourishes Nolan finds salvation in simplicity. He sings, “You put a note in my pocket, place a kiss upon my check, say thanks for walking home with me.” Simple acts of kindness, simple acts of love, populate Nolan’s imagery. Yet never falling prey to sappiness, Nolan maintains sincerity throughout. Nolan’s contained gravel adds weight to the songs as each lyric takes on a depth on meaning it might miss on lesser tongues. “The River” plays out like a distant and wizened relative dolling out nuggets of knowledge via world weary anecdotes.

“All of the dazzle standing in the doorway, if you want to stay hold on, don’t turn away, if you want to go, go now, just fade away,” Nolan sings on “Jaguar” over hypnotic strummed guitar hinting at a Velvet Underground drone while his vocal performance evokes Laurel Canyon singers of the past – soft yet powerful. “I ain’t saying words like love, I don’t say much these days…maybe we just didn’t get our timing right,” Nolan ponders on “Get Our Timing Right” as he returns to his folk foundations dominated by fingerpicked guitar and plaintive vocals. “Everyone Wants Someone to Love” gets to the heart of the matter (pun intended) when contemplating the confusing desires that fog the air between lovers. Nolan ultimately comes to the realization that, “everyone wants someone to love, I just want you to love yourself”.

“How I Used to Be” and “Outro” provide a final punch and a pallet cleanser as Drifters finds closure. “How I Used to Be” examines his past proclivities, doubts, and dourness over a Tom Petty-esque acoustic guitar strum. “I don’t know if my hearts good enough for you, maybe I’m not good enough to myself,” Nolan sings. As Nolan’s vocal shatters in search of relief, unassuming yet evocative electric guitar lines courtesy of guitarist Kevin Breit punctuate his struggle. The instrumental “Outro” provides a bed upon which to land after your unflinching journey with Nolan through the confusion of communion with another. Pick up a copy of Joe Nolan’s latest today and drift away on the high seas of stellar song craft. Drifters is out May 8th via Fallen Tree Records.


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