October 12, 2004

The Anomoanon "Joji"

Spaced-out banjo, misty harmonica and some of the best rural vocal harmonies I've heard in ages are but three reasons why I've totally fallen for Joji, the latest release by Baltimore's The Anomoanon. Led by Ned Oldham, The Anomoanon has been making music that happily defies and bastardizes the genres of folk, country and rock, and the resulting sound is something unique, something different--yet you'd be hard-pressed to consider it anything less than "traditional." Considering that they've not only released albums of original material, but also have released a tribute record to late Who bassist John Entwhistle and two albums that set Mother Goose rhymes and Robert Lewis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses to music, "traditional" is hardly the word one would use to describe The Anomoanon.

If you're a sucker for music that's honest, Joji will quickly win you over. Oldham's singing--which sounds hauntingly identical to brother Will--has a quality that makes you instantly believe every word he sings. Though he's hardly going for an 'everyman' persona, you'll be captured by his haunted, simple voice, which will leave you feeling that he speaks wisdom when he sings his songs about heartbreak, God, life and love. In many passages, when he sings his words are accompanied by multiple voices, which makes his words even more striking. In "Green Sea," when he sings of an unfaithful love, the voices accent the last words of each verse, to dramatic affect. Just listen for the line "your heart is beating for another man,"and quickly you'll feel what it's like to realize your lover has been unfaithful.

Because the music often goes into extended instrumental passages, featuring acoustic guitars, pianos, banjos and other good 'rustic' music, there's an understandable temptation to say "Grateful Dead," but that's wrong. Still, The Anomoanon is more than just Ned Oldham's singing; he's got a whole troupe of fine backing musicians, and when they stretch their musical muscles on "After That Before," "Down and Brown," "Wedding Song" or "Nowhere," you really don't mind, because they sound...real...good. There's something enjoyable about people getting together and vamping and playing off of each other. Just don't call The Anomoanon a jam band--because, well, they're better than that. Personally, I'm a sucker for banjo, piano and acoustic guitars, and all three of those instruments are used here, and they're used quite wonderfully.

Joji is music for pitchin' woo on a Friday night, sittin' on the porch on a Saturday night and for getting over your hangover on a Sunday morning. Joji is a collection of simple folkified country rock songs that sound like nothing you've ever heard, yet they sound exactly like you'd expect from a bunch of Appalachian musicians. Joji is a great record, period.

--Joseph Kyle

Label Website: http://www.temporaryresidence.com
Artist Website: http://www.anomoanon.com

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