Dane Joneshill and I have a few things in common: we both write songs and make records; we are both slightly ill-at-ease with social media; we’re the same age and we both know the simultaneous joy and pain of life as a domestic dad. Obviously, I shouldn’t let this sense of kinship colour what ought to be an objective appreciation of his debut album, Everything That Rises Must Converge, but it’s just possible it might.
As the record starts off, ever-so-gently with the weathered piano of the title track, I am immediately able to put a big tick in the box marked ‘Less Is More’ on my album scoresheet (yes, that exists and no, I’m not telling you how many points that one is worth). ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge’ builds gradually, with acoustic guitar and light-touch atmospherics doing just enough to shine up its sentiments and allow the drums to enter by stealth. Its central climax falls away and piano and vocal alone return it to its intimate, small-room vibe. The line “Don’t say perfect unless you mean it / Don’t think flawless until you’ve seen it” reflects Joneshill’s take on the noise and hype of modern life and is also a pretty good rule of thumb for anyone writing music reviews… there he goes, speaking to me again.
The gathering, galloping snare of ‘Abigail Dear’ underpins a more straight-ahead Americana tune, dressed with a light, pop gloss but then, as if he can hold it in no longer, Joneshill exposes his rockier side with the bouncy ‘Live A Little’. The song is all jangly guitars and brittle vocals - evoking classic Matchbox 20 - and is blessed with a feelgood, hit-worthy chorus.
The sprawling slide guitar and solid drum sound of ‘First Communion’ is in stark contrast to ‘Billy’ which is bare, fragile and raw with sadness. As a pair, the songs are rightly placed at the record’s centre and demonstrate Dane Joneshill’s equal strengths as a purveyor of commercial Americana on the one hand and a poignant storyteller on the other. The fact that both songs reference ritual and religion is perhaps a mark of how spiritually attached to music Joneshill is. At the age of forty and with five children in tow, it’s a minor miracle this man has made a record at all, but with these two songs you get the impression that he’s really had no other choice. It’s possible that writing and recording is the only thing keeping him sane but it’s also probable that music-making is something that just happens as part of Dane’s daily routine, like eating breakfast or breathing in oxygen.
The David Gray-flavoured waltz of ‘Fragments’ - pushing the importance of holding on to your hopes and dreams, however dashed and lost they may seem - and, similarly, the dual meaning in the title of ‘We Lie Together’ - which charts the difficulties of keeping a long-term relationship going - reveal the sort of wry wisdom that can only come from hard experience. These are not songs that younger artists can write, at least not with the kind of honesty and conviction on display here.
There is more confessional intimacy in the form of ‘Who I Am’ before the piano of ‘Long Way Around’ - ringing with echoes of Billy Joel at his bitter best - rounds off the record, with the help of some stirring gospel backing vocals. I am left with the sense that I know Dane Joneshill a little better than I did an hour before (I thought I knew him pretty well to start with, didn’t I?) which, in my book, is a good feeling to leave your listeners with.
If you are a fan of Ryan Adams and Drew Holcomb but still reserve a place in your heart for the cathartic rock of Counting Crows and Toad The Wet Sprocket then this album should please you aplenty. Everything That Rises Must Converge makes a good case for artists to wait a few years before making a debut: you’ll probably be a better judge of yourself and your work for the time spent in between. And even if you wait until you’re forty, it’s not too late. On the contrary; if this album is anything to go by, it could be just the start of something quite special.
Review by Rich Barnard.
'Everything That Rises Must Converge' is available as a LIMITED TIME album giveaway via Noisetrade.
Please visit Dane's official website for the link.