Joe Nolan – Tornado (2014)

Posted by on March 18, 2014as

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Joe Nolan’s Tornado is a much calmer force of nature than the name suggests. The local artist’s pining folk-blues record is more aftermath than storm, more aching regret than break-up.

The album begins with a raspy Nolan counting in the first song, “Tightrope Dancer,” a folk ballad about fading love. His voice is the first thing that captures you with its gravelly, trembling, Eddie-Vedder-meets-Tom-Waits vibe. His songs are infused with romantic sorrow, and the album plays like a live set, as if you’re right there with him, watching from a wooden bar stool as the 23-year-old growls his confessions through clenched teeth. In an earlier time there would be a low-lying layer of cigarette smoke.

The album is a slow burn all the way through, layered with humming organs, cozy strings and dark, crunchy, heartbreaking guitar melodies that echo Nolan’s husky voice. The album’s first half is somewhat lacklustre and generic, but Nolan keeps you onboard with the help of later songs such as “I Know the Difference” and “Tornado.”

By the end of the 11-song set, you’ll be glad you joined Nolan for this experience in the first place. You’ve been looking for just this: a warmth against January’s sting, a voice for every kind of heartache, a reason to be excited about local music. Joe Nolan is your man.

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