Bill Mize,
Joyful Noise
(Rose in a Fire, 2002)

Sometimes artists make an album for deep personal reasons, or to bring forgotten music to a wider audience. And sometimes they're flat showing off. Bill Mize puts on a parade of great guitar through Joyful Noise, and it makes for great listening.

There's a lot of easygoing, audial opium on the album. The opening track, "Everlasting Love," takes the familiar tune through strange and wholly unexpected mutations, delivering a calmer but melodically challenging version of a favorite. "To a Friend" wipes out tension faster than a hot bath, but unfortunately relaxed me far too much to remember anything else about it. The lovely "Song for Miss Lula" combines a steady, reliable guitar with soaring background airs. But these tunes still aren't the best the album has to offer.

The title song has plenty of snap to lead off the faster, more energetic numbers. Quick-paced and technically challenging, it holds a subtle hint of the blues that soon comes through in full. Mize's blues and funk pieces are the finest tracks on an already solid album. "Funk 49" lives up to its name, with some great percussion and a poetic feel that calls up images of smoky coffeehouses and really strange poetry. "If It Ain't Funk, It's Junk" takes itself right out of the "junk" category. The exotic "Tango for Gnats" sounds like a visitor from a different album, with an almost Indian feel joined with a '70s disco vibe.

While the mellow tracks are all quite nice, these funky, bluesy tunes are much more fun to listen to, and it feels as though Mize had more fun playing them. The slower pieces have plenty of technical confidence, but the lighter, faster pieces burst with flourish and flair.

Joyful Noise is a hard album to place; not quite folk, not quite blues, nowhere near new age. Mize may have labeled his work best: joyful noise, just a celebration of music and what it can do. Those who can enjoy an unfettered musical party are urged to join in the celebration.

- Rambles
written by Sarah Meador
published 19 April 2003