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Plain Jane

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Album Review

Since the early '70s, when every singer/songwriter with an acoustic guitar was dubbed a new Bob Dylan, relatively few emerging musical artists have dared adopt the verbose style so successfully pursued by Dylan in the mid-'60s. That makes Joe Nolan something of a throwback. You aren't more than a few seconds into any song on his self-released debut album Plain Jane before the acoustic guitar, the wailing harmonica, the adenoidal voice, and, particularly, the wordy lyrics begin to remind you strongly of the Bob Dylan of 1965's Bringing It All Back Home. For a change of pace, Nolan can take the beat slightly more up-tempo, add a flute, and sound like Moondance-era Van Morrison on "Rush Hour Blues," but for the most part he models himself so obsessively on Dylan that it's hard to think of his music separate from its primary antecedent. He is a bit more earnest than the caustic, world-weary Dylan of 1965 tended to be, but the relentless onrush of words makes his songs less, not more, meaningful, as he is clearly far more interested in getting to the next rhyme or cultural reference than he is in telling his stories. You might think that after 35 years enough time would have passed for such an approach to sound fresh again. But, actually, Dylan remains such a pervasive influence on popular music that so slavish an imitation can sound only like what it is.


Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Joe Nolan began writing songs in his hometown of Detroit at the age of 16. In 1992, he moved to Nashville to become a singer and songwriter. Within six months of his arrival, he had signed on as a staff writer at the Black and White Music publishing firm. He began opening shows for a variety of performers, and in 2000...
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Plain Jane, Joe Nolan
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