In the introduction to his new compilation Beautiful Losers, Nebraskan folk singer Simon Joyner writes of his songwriting, "No matter how hard you try, a puddle is a mirror after all." Giving listeners confessions and articulations as good as they come, Simon Joyner is one of those folk singers loved by those who have heard him, and just another nasally-voiced stranger to everyone else.
The 21 tracks collected on Beautiful Losers aren't his best (see the numerous full lengths he's recorded over the past dozen or so years) but they are nevertheless indicative of his command of language and syntax; it's a solid introduction to the satisfaction of diving deep into his discography. Joyner himself describes these revisited tracks as "blessed strangers" he "wishes [he] could say he knew better now than [he] did then," but, he continues:
"When I close my eyes and touch my wrist, I feel ribbons of smoke slowly turning inside out, staging disappearing acts, and I know I have to find a way to love everything that leaves me."
If words like that aren't enough to prove his writerly prowess, one must only look so far as the first track. On "Love is Worth Suffering For," Joyner describes a view through a Sunday morning window, his bedmate having left for worship:
"A 'her' cremated the morning and sprinkled it over my forehead / it's not a day of worship unless I haven't got the facts straight. / I can see through my window the sprinkler shooting like cool rubber bands / and the grass reaches out like so many hungry hands."
If still not enough, dig deeper. On "I Would Not Try To Break Ties with Me," he describes an ex-lover:
"I'm the only man who ever loved you / 'cause you're plain as the wall and ugly as the stool where I rest my feet / And loyal as the dog who wanders off to howl at the moon."
Listeners who hold good songwriting above execution and an objective, "pretty" aesthetic will find Joyner to be graceful in his grit, eloquent in his exits, explicitly articulate from each stanza or verse. Dylan fans will rejoice, and Woody Guthrie purists will find something quite difficult to shrug away as derivative. Great execution can make up for sticking to a simple acoustic-guitar-and-verse-chorus-verse template that's worked for nearly a century. He might not reinvent the wheel of music, but he sure knows how to use it.