I first became aware of Joe Craig’s musical abilities when he tweeted me asking about my knowledge and abilities as a music promoter/event manager. Not living in London and being hugely naive, I didn’t really pursue things further. Since then I’ve moved to London, interviewed him multiple times (the most recent of which is here), and been invited to the book launch for Blackout! But all of this has focused on Joe the writer or Joe the person. Now in possession of his first album, I get to delve slightly into Joe the musician.
*Disclaimer – Joe did give me this album (signed – oh yeah!), but this has not influenced my writing at all.*
Joe is no stranger to music, previously writing and composing scores for theatre and television, as well as performing as a singer-songwriter and jazz musician.The Songman… is the first recorded album of his work though.
It is a raw performance, in as much as it wasn’t produced in a studio; instead, it was recorded over one (or many) afternoons in his front room. It is just Joe and the piano. No backing vocals, no auto tune, and minimal post production. Every note you hear is the one that Joe played at the time, which is both refreshing and unfamiliar in an age where nearly every song is pushed through a computer.
The album shows that Joe is as talented writing lyrics as he is with writing books. ‘Faithful Friend’ borrows heavily from the classic piece ‘Auld Lang Syne’, with touching lyrics penned by Joe really evoking a strong sense of optimism and sorrow at the same time. It is simply a beautiful piece, showing the best of his vocal abilities. It is my favourite track on the album and it would fit in perfectly in a film like Toy Story- which is saying something!
The next track, ‘The Songman Speaks’, is hauntingly complex and simple at the same time. There are no vocals, and there are definite jazz roots in the piece. If we are to assume that the Songman is Joe, then in this instance I would say that he performed a most marvelous soliloquy.
This album is very stripped back, very intimate and very fun. It allows Joe to demonstrate his musical capabilities in a fantastic way, with production quality being amazing considering its recording setting. While it would be fair to say that his vocals are not incredibly strong, this never becomes an issue while listening. His music is inoffensive, lighthearted, and held together with great piano playing. Knowing how good he is at guitar, I would love to see him include some of that in his next album.