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C Joynes
Poor Boy on the Wire Tom Bolton , December 6th, 2021 09:04

Serial collaborator C Joynes branches out on his own with a battery of old guitars

With Poor Boy on the Wire, Chris Joynes strikes out on his own for the first time in ten years. His catalogue in the meantime has been varied, layered and often enthralling. From his collaboration with Stephanie Hladowski The Wild, Wild Berry (2012) to ‘Spilt Electric (2016) with Nick Jonah Davis, The Borametz Tree (2019) as C Joynes & The Furlong Bray, and releases as Waterless Hills, including 2020’s The Great Mountain, Joynes has mined a rich seam. His music has a folk base but no boundaries, and his improvisatory guitar style is strongly influenced by the music of North Africa in particular.

Joynes’ new work is just him and an armload of electric guitars, but the depth of sound and atmosphere he conjures over twelve tracks makes the intricate instrumentation of Waterless Hills seems almost excessive by comparison. From the first notes, he unleashes a torrent of pent-up sound, and proceeds to reveal the variety of music teeming in his head.

The album is released in both mono and stereo versions, a strong clue to the minimal production. Throughout the record Joynes plays vintage and reclaimed instruments. The mono mix carries a powerful, close-miked directness that with all the fuzz of a forgotten disc, pulled from an attic. This sound is applied to an extremely broad repertoire that draws freely from nursery rhyme, blues, the Maghreb, tango, and folk. Tracks range from the minute-and-a-half bluegrass piece ‘Redwing’, to the six minutes of ‘Red Sleeves’, a throbbing, powerful blues tune that pulls the guts from Joynes’ guitar. That it is followed by a cover of George Gershwin’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’, a song closely linked to Ella Fitzgerald, is typical of his unfettered, idiosyncratic approach. Meanwhile, ‘Mapperly Park To Atlow Moat To Leamoor Derby Road’ is a joyful Derbyshire–Nottinghamshire road trip.

Joynes is hard to classify, but the list of influential musicians he has collaborated with help to place the quality of his music. He has worked with not only the best, but also the most innovative singers and guitarists associated with folk influences, from Martin Carthy to Sir Richard Bishop to Alastair Roberts. The archive sound on ‘Poor Boy’ is reminiscent of Josephine Foster (he’s worked with her); the Latin groove of Marc Ribot (him too); the rawness of his sound to Richard Dawson (and him). His playing technique is exceptional, not showy but deeply expressive. Poor Boy on the Wire is an album that displays all the curiosity and joyful eclecticism that gave the folk revival its energy and excitement, and continues to drive a music that is as far from nationalism and parochialism as it’s possible to imagine. Joynes plugs in his guitar and connects.