Erie Reader

Justin Moyar

Reconnect

Self-released

4/5 stars

Erie’s own Justin Moyar offers up 10 toe-tapping tracks for his debut album, Reconnect. Live, Moyar often performs his songs with a loop pedal, adding in percussion parts, along with his own backup vocals. Not unlike these performances, the opening track builds gradually, swinging a steady groove that lures the listener in. It’s three minutes into the eight-minute “Parachute” before Moyar sings a word, but by that time, you’re already paying attention. This is dimly lit, arenose music of the highest degree. Percussive acoustic seventh chords infuse the tracks with a jazz influenced folk sound. Classically trained violinist Louis Nicolia proves to be an invaluable sonic ingredient, painting in emotional flourishes of strings throughout the album (notably on “Play Your Song”). “Highway Beggar Man” showcases the smoking Diddley Bow, a small cigar box style guitar capable of huge sounds (usually with one or two strings), wielded by Nicolia. The catchy “Carpal Tunnel” proves to be an indelible melody, complete with a kazoo solo by Moyar. Titular track “Reconnect” provides some of the more impressive lyrical turns on the album. – Nick Warren

Erie Times-News

What could be better than the Erie singer-songwriter’s compelling new 10-track album? Hearing him perform live

Any ol’ singer-songwriter can earnestly strum an acoustic guitar and crank out well-meaning tunes about the state of the world.

Erie’s Justin Moyar, who performs Sunday at the Juice Jar, doesn’t hit that well-traveled road. He takes sudden sonic detours that give him a distinct sensibility on “Reconnect,” his impressive new, 10-track album. Moyar deploys such unexpected flourishes as an amplified kazoo, violin, viola, a megaphone and diddley bow (a two-string, cigar box style instrument).

The results are compelling and catchy. Songs including “Highway Beggar Man” hit with raw force and intensity as Moyar tells the story of a beggar who’s not what he seems. Not surprisingly, that track was inspired by real life. Years ago, he noticed the same younger man asking for money on assorted streets.

“He always had different clothes on, and newer jackets. I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” Moyar said. “Then, I saw him on a cellphone and I thought, ‘What in the world?’ So, I took it upon myself to find out who he was.”

Later, he came across the guy coming out of a house with a woman and baby. She drove off in a car; he got on a bike and rode downtown.

“I’m like, ‘What?’ So, then I wrote this song,” Moyar said. “And it was really based on him. I just this put whole story together about this guy who goes downtown, he’s well off and for whatever reason, he’s (begging). But he’s next to these guys who really are homeless — real homeless people, who can’t work, they can’t get on their feet. They don’t have a place to go. And here’s this guy who’s just taking money right out of their hands every day and he doesn’t really need the money.”

A song like that demands a video, right? Not to worry: Frederick Dunn is completing one, shot in black and white in Erie. A preview of it is posted on YouTube, which also has a performance video of “Reconnect,” the title song of Moyar’s CD.

Local performer Matt Boland shot the shadowy, spooky “Reconnect” video, which also features Louis Nicolia, who plays the diddley bow and violin on the album.

“We filmed that in the basement of PACA,” Moyar said. “It really looks like ‘Silent Hill’ down there. And (Boland) had the lighting going on, and we got some really cool effects. Some things I didn’t expect happened.”

The “Reconnect” lyrics feature some wry humor: “Might as well not be a carpenter, because they’re saving all the trees.” But they make a real point about how the world is changing quickly and leaving many folks unsure of where to go or what to do.

It’s about “trying to find a way back home,” Moyar said of the song. “I think everyone is doing that personal journey and is looking at the world and what’s going on. Everyone’s trying to find it. ‘I just want to get back to reality sometimes and be able to find my way back to where I’m destined to go.’ That’s the idea behind the song.”

“Reconnect” benefits from its visceral sound. It’s no surprise that Moyar grew up a big fan of old-school blues artists such as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and John Lee Hooker, who played with a rawboned immediacy. He’s also influenced by the songwriting of Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, as well as such current artists as Jack White and the Black Keys, who similarly put their own stamp on the blues.

Moyar often performs live with Nicolia, but he’ll go it alone on Sunday at the Juice Jar, with his guitar, vocals, megaphone and harmonica. He does, however, deploy backing loops for percussion. He’ll also have an interesting act between sets — his son Gavin, 8, who sings, plays drums and writes songs. Dad sits in with him.

“I think he has more of a following than I do right now,” Moyar said with a laugh.