Published August 21, 2020
Highways & Byways
By Bambi Grinder
Photos courtesy of Joe Dillstrom
Though not a traveler myself, I am not immune to the hopeful promise of the open road, the highway stretching before you under a clear sky. Where might it take you? Where might your thoughts lead, your memories wander as the journey on the road becomes a search for self? This lies at the heart of Joe Dillstrom’s new album Highways & Byways.
Inevitably, perhaps, a trip out on those highways and byways shifts the perspective inwards. Wherever you might go, always, you carry yourself with you. Most often what you seek can only be found on that internal journey, painful, excruciating even, as it may be. A solitary journey, a lonely sojourn, necessary if ever you are to know yourself.
Joe captures perfectly with his memory-evoking lyrics that fascinating truth of humanity: Despite it being a solitary journey, we all take it at one time or another. A unique experience shared by the masses. A singular journey all your own mirrored in everyone around you.
Joe’s plaintive, mournful, thoughtful, searching lyrics evoke such a sense of loss …
Each of the twelve songs on Highways & Byways has a different sound, but Joe’s strong and gentle voice twines them together. His beautiful harmonica connects his songs with his skillful playing. It’s the harmonica that really drew me in with the very first song, “One More Moment.”
Yet more than anything, the lyrics link the songs together. Joe’s plaintive, mournful, thoughtful, searching lyrics evoke such a sense of loss, of time passing by, leaving us behind, speeding away to where? He captures the feeling of searching for something elusive, haunted by the absence of something you can almost name. A wordsmith to be sure. Have you felt and understood this line from “In a Violet Night”?
Does it take you by surprise
When you smile?
Joe breathes life into those specific memories and moments we have each experienced in our separate lives. In this way, much as his songs, he links us together as well.
In “One More Moment” we see that trick of memory where you think of one thing and it leads to another and another until you are somewhere else entirely. And then suddenly, realization dawns and that elusive something is revealed.
The lonesome sound of “Magdelena,” and Charlie’s hopeful words that he’ll reach her soon, begin a two-part story. That heartbreaking “Oh no.” Breathless disbelief: After all that and this is how it ends?
“Magdelena” leads into the mournful “Charlie” where we discover the sadness of Magdelena, her thoughts ever with Charlie, and her ultimate decision. It brings to mind that desperate feeling of trying, hoping to reach someone when communication was letters and it was all too easy to miss someone by mail.
Joe breathes life into those specific memories and moments we have each experienced in our separate lives.
In this soul-searing song, “Exit Next Right,” the lonely search for self out on the road reveals a sense that what is being sought can’t be found out there.
And everywhere I go
There’s just no place like home
The palpable sadness of “Take a Page (Out of Me)” literally caught my breath and brought tears to my eyes and a painful lump in my throat. Write what you like. What a perfect, heartbreaking line.
In Joe’s own words:
“My goal with this set of songs was to record them live and present them with as few musical elements as possible. They’re narrative songs about the road and self-discovery. I use the tagline ‘Road songs, singalongs, and bar-fly lullabies’ to describe it. Basically I just wanted it to hinge on the subtleties and nuances of my playing and singing. I’m not sure if it worked ultimately but I think a few of the songs got pretty close.”
Yes, Joe, you succeeded.
One More Moment
About Joe Dillstrom
A throwback to the troubadour tradition of the late 60s and early 70s, Joe is a native of Springfield, Missouri. A songwriter with a distinctly literary edge, an understated guitar style, and a smooth baritone voice. His compositions are tasteful, articulate, and melodic.
To learn more and to buy stuff go to https://www.joedillstrom.com/
Writer and Editor
Co-founder/owner of NoteWorthy Music, Bambi Grinder has spent many years as a shaper of words—writing novels and short fiction (which she prefers in first-person present tense). Bambi is delighted to make this foray into the digital landscape with NoteWorthy Music as publisher, editor, writer, and web designer and developer.
You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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