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C Joynes - Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead

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Artist: C Joynes

Album: Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead

Label: Bo'Weavil

Review date: Nov. 10, 2009

The title of English guitarist C Joynes’ second album is blatantly patterned after the names that John Fahey gave to his old Takoma recordings, and a cursory spin shows that the influence doesn’t stop at the cover. He’s not alone. Fahey’s corpus so indelibly marks the work of players like Glenn Jones, Jack Rose, and Cian Nugent that they’ve been subjected to a backlash that unfairly disparages them as mere copycats; hell, it looms so monolithically that its originator himself spent years denying it, although he achieved a rapprochement with his legacy near the end. But Fahey’s example went far beyond a certain way of playing the guitar. His model showed how an artist could make their cultural past meaningful in the present, treat folk material as an open field upon which one can integrate a myriad of styles, confront and purge one’s personal history, and manufacture myths, and integrate music, image, and text to convey a complex and emotionally resonant message.

Like Fahey, Joynes obtains a resonant tone, avoids breakneck tempos, and while he loves a good tune, he loves it better when it’s bolstered with a good bass-line. As the Dobro “Mob-Happy” exemplifies, his music is similarly infused with a love for early blues and other pre-rock forms. But older styles are material to be manipulated, not regurgitated; “Skip James In ‘The Triumph Of Death’” leaves the blues far beyond as it winds through moments of trepidation and jaunty cheer that are expressed in a melodic language that seems equally steeped in 19th century classical music and 20th century orchestral film-scoring. But Joyes, like other recent Fahey acolytes, engages the process of music-making as a statement about one’s self in relation to the world in ways that transcend “sounds like…” criticisms even when he emulates the master’s methods.

While Fahey was a master at locating and expanding upon the darkness in a happy tune, Joynes manages the opposite on the Loudon Wainwright III by way of Freakwater cover “Out Of This World.” Sped up from foot-dragging trudge to light-hearted shuffle, shorn of its self-pitying lyric, and tinged with dub-like echo and distortion, it conveys the experience of leaving sadness behind. On “I Love You Hanny Fuji” he uses brittle tuning and a backdrop of musical boxes to essay an earnest but tentative expression of affection that, if you let yourself tune into the swiped zither and plucked strings in the background, doubles as a celebration of the hypnotic effects of layered sound. “Nyambai Sawmill” may echo Fahey’s “The Portland Cement Factory At Monolith, California” in title, but its sound is closer to John Cage’s Sonatas And Interludes For Prepared Piano, and the memory it draws on is purely Joynes’s; he has spent years living and working outside the UK, and it seem that one of his stops along the way was a business in Gambia. Revenants, Prodigies and the Restless Dead imparts a sense of a life lived, mused upon, and recounted.

By Bill Meyer

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