Despite living in a city only about 30 minutes from Simon Joyners hometown, I didn't really hear much about him until this album came out. Either he doesn't play many shows in the area, he sticks to very underground locations, or I simply didn't remember seeing his name anywhere. For a folk/indie album, it's quite an epic one, spanning over the course of 2CDs and over 80 minutes of music. Granted, it probably could have been whitled down one song and put onto one, but it's really not a biggie.
Although I called it folk/indie above, I think that another, more specific way to describe the sound of Joyner and his music is by calling it Southern Gothic folk-rock. Most of the songs don't move any faster than waltz speed, and almost all the lyrics are questioning of religion, relationships, and just about everything else. It's not all necessarily depressing, but it definitely isn't upbeat either. Joyner's vocals take a bit of time to get used to because it almost sounds like his voice is going to crack when he really gets into things. Again, not a biggie.
Things start out with one of the fastest song on the release, called "Bring Down Goliath." With strummed guitars and jaunty piano playing that sounds like it could be coming out of a ragtime saloon, the track has just the right amount of rough edges to give it flavor without seeming sloppy. Things slow down on the next track before launching into the the nearly ten minute track "Eight Verses." The slow, meandering track with ever-building cymbal crashes makes it sound like an oncoming storm with lyrics that sound like they've been influenced by a healthy dose of reading Flannery O' Connor. Things slow down even more on the next two tracks, the album-titled "Yesterday Tomorrow And In Between" and "Ballad In The Past." Things go right back into more religious contemplation and a more quick pace on "Sinner's Song" and show off the sound that Joyner is best at.
The second disc starts out with a track called "Christine," which sounds like it was penned by Johnny Cash. With a solemn organ backing and minimal drums and guitars, it's one of the likes of church hymns gone bad like the man in black is so fond of writing. After the pleading, "Came A Yellow Bird," Joyner again slows things down quite a bit with nothing more than brushed cymbals and very quiet guitar accompaniment on "Amen." After a couple more tracks, the disc closes out with the longest track on the release, the eleven and a half minute "The Passenger." With 12 verses, the track drifts along wearily while telling a long story. The instrumentation moves along with percussion that sounds sort of like a mimic of horse hooves while that lonely organ changes ever so slightly in the background. Things pick up ever so subtley over the course of the number, but never reach a high decibel level.
With the miminal instrumentation, the soul-searching lyrics and somewhat vulnerable sounding voice, Joyner has created a long release worth listening to. While one of the faults of the release might be that too many of the songs move at nearly the same tempo and have the same sort of dark waltzing sound, it also makes the disc(s) sound more cohesive overall. If you're at all into singer/songwriter material, it's definitely something to check out. Plus, what's not to like about the label name of Sing Eunuchs?