tip of the bomb

Performing Songwriter Magazine
Volume 9, Issue 59 January/February 2002
DIY Top 12 Picks
Clay Steakley

Joe Nolan
Plain Jane
Produced by Pat Flynn and Joe Nolan

What sets Joe Nolan apart from the common singer-songwriter stock is his unique, masterful command of language. Nolan is, at heart, a poet. On Plain Jane, Nolan’s breezy eloquent stanzas are adorned with engaging folk arrangements and his reedy, expressive voice. The inescapable influence of Bob Dylan is omnipresent throughout this record, as are Simon and Garfunkel (on the song “Rush Hour Blues”), Leonard Cohen (on “Mad, Bad, Dangerous”) and Van Morrison (on “Young and Beautiful”). But Nolan’s use of his influences never translates as derivative. Instead, it communicates a sameness of spirit that he shares with these artists, and, though the music here is rooted in the sounds of the 1960s folk revival and Southern blues, it stays as visceral and relevant as a favorite neighborhood bar or the memory of a first lover.

Plain Jane is eminently listenable, and its lyrical content stands alone as well-crafted, effective poetry. In particular, “San Francisco Girl” and the superlative “Mad, Bad, Dangerous” communicate a sensitivity to language and human relationships in slippery, breathless cascades of riveting images.

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