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No one is really from Los Angeles, the saying goes. Instead, the City of Angels is the product of all the places its pilgrims have left behind, and the sum of all the ghosts who’ve come along for the ride. In a Mecca of dreams made manifest, and the dreamers who bring them to life, it is precisely this amalgamation of individual and collective histories and cultures that gives birth to the city’s unique tapestry of art and music.
It is fitting, then, that like Jim Morrison and countless others before him, Venice is the adopted home and creative backdrop for singer-songwriter Joe Con. A native of central Kentucky, Con blends soulful Southern swagger, sun-drenched, sandy ocean blues, and street savvy hip hop to create a potent brew of musical flavors. His songs range from raucous to reflective, sincere to sardonic. Acoustic and electric guitars interwoven with raw beats move seamlessly beneath waves of melodic poetry, like amplified lullabies sung by the lovechild of Leonard Cohen and Mos Def.
Citing influences as diverse as Woody Guthrie and Wu Tang Clan, the young balladeer draws as much artistic inspiration from Kerouac and Rimbaud as he does from Hendrix and Howling Wolf. Mr. Con is a 21st century troubadour in the truest sense. At seventeen, he bid farewell to the idyllic bluegrass hamlet of his childhood and rambled west to study English at UC Berkeley. Along the way he traded innocence for experience, and forged a poet’s path illuminated by the bright lights and long shadows cast by life in the City of Sin. Living in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, he was simultaneously fascinated and appalled by the shocking poverty and audacious wealth that existed side by side, a paradoxical duality not unlike the one he encountered daily in his childhood spent shuffling between the serene countryside and bustling college campuses of the commonwealth state. Churchyards and trailer parks became beaches and back alleys.
The balancing act of living and walking in multiple worlds, musical and otherwise, are issues Con fleshes out in the six songs that comprise his latest EP, “I Choose You.” He tightropes the tension between life on the road and the memory of home in the title track, and sprints through a novel's worth of relationships in “Said and Done.” Recounting loves won and lost with tingling frankness and vulnerability, he admits that although the temptation of excess comes at a steep price, it is one he has clearly already paid in full. Following in the footsteps of William Blake, Mr. Con seems destined to find his palace of wisdom. Painting with rich sounds and words his trials and tribulations, Joe Con welcomes his listeners into a bright, visceral world filled with the fresh promise of triumph over tragedy, all the while reinventing the blues to the beat of LA.