Cry Baby (Independent)
I used to see Joe Nolan around Edmonton more than a decade ago, a talented teenager singing his sweet folk songs filled with idealism. Joe is an adult now and his voice, sound, and lyrics have all become a lot more gritty.
These days, Nolan sings of being blackout drunk, dead ends, broken hearts, Pall Malls and PBRs. He also sings so eloquently about being so tempted by the beautiful siren of the music business and being so tired of “the poets falling to their knees for the captains of the industry” and being asked “what are you doing with your whole life?” Yet there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, that despite the dice always being loaded, you’ve got to “stand up for your love.”
Nolan, who virtually grew up in the music business, takes us through the peaks and troughs of that life or, really, of anybody’s life. Infused with darkness, light, hope, and dread, he really has come of age as a songwriter.
The production and musicianship on this disc are definitely equal to the task of bringing out the best in Nolan’s tunes. Lots of jangly electric guitars, the occasional wash of organ, and female backup singers inject a ton of soul into the mix. Some of Alberta’s best have been recruited here, including bassist Mike Lent, guitarists Grant Siemens and Russell Broom, and drummer Lyle Molzan. The final track, the Springsteen-esque Ode to Sturgeon County, features a string section arranged by the dearly departed Tommy Banks.