When I first heard Joe Nolan in a shuffle-stream of local music, his haunted voice snapped me to attention. The album was 2014's Tornado, produced by Colin Linden. I wondered when we'd hear from him again.
Nolan has finally returned with his followup record, Cry Baby.
Joe Nolan's voice sounds like it swam an ocean of pain (and/or whisky) to emerge on the other side barely breathing and stronger for the suffering. That pain – something like wisdom – resonates through every one of Nolan's songs.
"I don't know nothin' about being a star except fallin' blue ..."
Joe Nolan croons mid-whisper. Sometimes he howls like smouldering Tom Waits. His voice stretches until it breaks. His delivery is never dull. Nolan's lyrics are rooted in the real, full of insight and recognition. His melodies swirl and haunt after the fade. His guitar playing is soaked in smokey grit.
Cry Baby is a solid ten songs, dancing with beauty from start to the aching finish that is Ode to Sturgeon County.
"Jesus Christ, I don't know what's real out there beyond the rain and the sleet / but I guess you gave us the choice to look up and reach"
Maybe what I love most about Nolan's music is that he refuses to wallow.
There's a hopeful thread woven throughout Cry Baby. As Nolan himself says, "With Cry Baby, Joe Nolan is now ready to live again after gazing into the void".
Find Joe Nolan online at http://www.joenolanmusic.com/