Published Jan 28, 2014Edmonton singer-songwriter Joe Nolan is a rising star on Canada's folk-roots scene. His debut album, Goodbye Cinderella (2011), earned him a record deal with Toronto's esteemed Six Shooter Records, and a ticket to Nashville to record songs for his sophomore effort with the likes of Colin Linden, John Whynot, Tom Wilson and Marco Giovino. The result, Tornado, is a remarkable collection of slow-burning melancholia.
"Tightrope Dancer," the album's first track, sets the confessional tone and Nolan is still singing, teeth-clenched, of heartache, regret, and lost love in "I'll Still Remember Your Name," "My Sweet Forever" and "Shambles." On the last track, he admits his dream of singing with his "one and only…at the end of it all" at "Massey Hall."
The title track and "The Pawnshop" are the real standouts here, in part because they capture Nolan's lyrical warmth and offer the fullest expression of the album's superb low-key musicianship. What's so impressive is that Nolan has pulled off an album of pining and aching that somehow doesn't feel sad.
Variations in Nolan's pitch and articulation from song to song suggest impressive vocal control, but also that Nolan is still searching for his identity as a singer. His rasp switches effortlessly between Bruce Cockburn, Danny Michel, Tom Petty, Tom Waits, and Eddie Vedder, superb reference points all, and a sure sign that Nolan is well on his way to distinguishing himself as one of Canada's finest singer-songwriters. (Six Shooter)