Welcome Back Joyce Luna/Zymeck

Joyce Luna, Every Road We Take

Folks in the Northeast know Joyce Luna under her given name of Joyce Zymeck* and as half of the beloved duo Justina and Joyce. Joyce moved to Tucson a few years back and took a hiatus from music to deal with some serious medical and personal issues. The latter—much of it related to matters of the heart—became fodder for a passel of new songs just out on Joyce's first solo recording. Coproduced with Ryan David Green, Every Road We Take is an honest and soul-baring look at the things that make the soul leap and those that make it weep. The title track sets the mood. It opens with the line I had a love that burned me down completely. So what do you do when a new possibility comes along and you find yourself—in Luna's delicious phrase—stuck on the karma carousel?

Yep—it's that kind of vulnerable album. It's also an unabashed folk music record with Luna singing like a nightingale and the instrumentation—though often woven tightly around the melodies—never competing with the vocals. The flavor of the album, though not the music itself, reminded me of the sort of projects Sally Rogers used to make. Tentative steps are taken again in "We'll See," and Luna is open to any of three possibilities: fling, false hope, or real thing. Psychological healing gets a work out the record. "Choose" closes the gap between the labels others put on you and what you know to be true of yourself, with lines such as To get rid of the bad, we have to give up some good a true reckoning of the cost when we choose a new family. There is also the balm of music, which Luna explores on the rhythmic clap-and-sing "Love, Dance, Sing."

For me the album really catches fire "A Million Years," with its big guitar sound and memorable riffs that enhance the drama of whether or not to open the door to a person who sees you with all your scars and fear and refuses to turn away. Luna follows with a dynamic remake of "Sip of Water," a Justina and Joyce favorite. The new version surpasses the original and is so sexy and hot you may need a cold shower after listening. These two songs set the stage for more diversity in theme and production. The cello accompaniment—from Linda Ronstadt's nephew Michael—to "(Why Do You) Hide Your Heart" and the ever-so-dark piano to "Trust" give each the feel of late-night-café folk. They are followed by the giddy and cheeky coyness of "First Kiss," which is where Motown, early 60s' girl group, and folk collide; then comes "Heaven," a novelty song confession of her love of the Weather Channel," followed by the album's two social justice songs.

It is an ironic tragedy that I am writing this review the day still another school shooter murdered ten in Texas, as Luna's "We Shall Be Seen" is her anthem against gun violence and she is backed on the album by singers from Every Town for Gun Safety/Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety. One wonders what else can be done to address the nation's paralytic inaction on the slaughter of innocents.  I wanted to scream out We say No, No, No! the repeating chant from "Affirmation (The No Song," the album's second remix and its concluding selection."

This is an expertly produced recording and it's a true joy to hear Joyce's voice once again. If you like folk music that doesn't pretend to be something else, this is the record for you. My sole reservation is with the order of the songs. Perhaps that doesn't matter in the age of individual downloads, but I would have counseled to leave more space between relationship songs. (Though such matters are truly the artist's choice.) And, as my mother used to say, if that's the worst you have to complain about….

Here's a collection of samples from the just released album.  These are better recordings than the above YouTube postings.

Rob Weir

*Full disclosure: I have known Joyce for many years and, lately, she has been a great help in helping me negotiate some of the same back pain issues with which she has had to cope. But lest you think this a "puff piece," my standard in reviewing records from friends is that if I don't like them, I politely beg off and pass them to other reviewers. Honestly! 

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