Joe Nolan – Scrapper
This 11-cut Joe Nolan CD dropped Oct. 15. It’s worth a listen if you like John Prine, Jon Dee Graham, Otis Taylor, Buddy Miller, & Joe Henry. Singers with a bit of a deeper vocal groove.
Scrapper (Fallen Tree Records) is a self-produced LP with a bundle of songs about loneliness, struggles out on the road, the misunderstandings that divide friends & lovers.
The Edmonton, Canada native is a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who didn’t let a pandemic lockdown interfere with his artistic energy or musical motivation. “Whole New Love,” with a Joe Henry-type tone is a well-written piece.
The musicians are lean – Joe (guitars/piano/keys/synths & sampling), Nigel Gale (bass) Andrew Scott (drums) with guest players Nataya Nolan (vocals on 3 cuts), Jenie Thai (piano on “All Love Is Lit”) & Kyle Mosiuk (electric guitar on track 2 “Whole New Love”).
Many songs borrow elements from other vocalists, but Nolan approaches his material with creative maturity. “Cherry Valance,” is a jewel as Joe adds striking guitar chords & his vocals skim the edge of Philly’s late-career Robert Hazard who explored similar regions prior to his passing. This song is superb.
Nolan’s expressive singing gives each song significance, drama, like a well-written script for a fine film with little special effects. A 70s singer who didn’t succeed grandly — Danny Peck (signed by Arista), has the same tonality but lacked Nolan’s deep dive lyrics & eccentric instrumentation. The melody’s there, the vocal treatments make it a transformative showcase. Nolan’s technique is admirable. As delicately provided on “Row Your Boat.” Here, Nolan’s his own man. An innovative ballad approach with just the right tints to be intense yet, memorable.
Each song is composed with its own character & complexion. “When I’m Feeling Down,” is simple but isn’t. It has little performance interplays that flesh out an urgency that’s poignant. This borders on Tim Buckley experimentation & Tim Hardin vibrance. On “New To The Neighborhood,” Nolan’s vocal is reminiscent of “Don’t Need Your Blues,” (if you can find it) by the great Irish folksinger David McWilliams (famous for “Days of Pearly Spencer,” “Marlena”).
What makes the majority of his songs attractive is that none are embellished. It’s an assortment that embodies Americana-Roots on a wholly 21st Century platter. What’s also positive are the many fresh possibilities open to this reshaped genre. On “Here’s To Hoping,” Nolan gives a listener a sample of where Bruce Springsteen should be.
This is a satisfying set. If you prefer contemporary, commercial mainstream assembly line songs this isn’t for you. This is sharp provolone cheese, not mozzarella. It’s for distinguished tastes.
There’s a 12th hidden cut on this LP that’s not a throw-away extra, it’s excellent.
The B&W image is courtesy of Fallen Tree Records. The 49-minute CD: available at Bandcamp & https://www.joenolanmusic.com/
Check out our interview of Joe Nolan, here: Interview: Joe Nolan Gets Scrappy with “Scrapper”