A wonderful, shimmering exploration of the places where folk, blues and rock meet, this second album by Nashville’s Stone Jack Jones laces trippy, transcendental melancholy into its reverbed guitar notes. Built from textures rather than linear patterns of notes, the best songs have a wavering, mirage-like quality that shivers and bends under close examination. Repeated motifs emerge and fall back into translucent textures, becoming plain and obscured like images under water.
Jones’ vocals, frayed and world-weary and bittersweet as tobacco smoke, float above the dense music in mysterious repetitive patterns. “Hey love, are you ./Hey love are youŅ./Hey love are you.” Jones intones in “Hey You,” singing in a rising line that drips with melancholy. “Are you what?” you might well ask, but it is a long time and several mesmerizing blues guitar solos before you’ll hear the end of the question. “Are you ready?” is what he’s demanding, but it hardly seems to matter, because by that time, you are not only ready, you are already here. The point is not really any sort of logical understanding but the way you absorb mood and feeling, as later on “Dreams”, amid circling patterns of choked back chords, Jones nearly whispers “In my dreamsŅvoices call,” then the guitars crash in like the roof falling in.
Jones has worked closely with fellow blues/folk experimenter Patty Griffin, whose soft, pillowy singing adds lilt to four of these songs. Her harmonies are particularly lovely on the upbeat, big-hearted “Evermore” adding lift to the chant of “I miss you/I want you/I lay down beside you,” but she is also a welcome addition to the beatifically harmonized “L&A” (“Love and Adoration”), as well. Darker, barer and altogether more arresting, though, are some of Jones’ solo pieces—like “Rage” with its stark, downward march of reverbed guitar notes and multiple layers of sound.
Like Jones’ first album, 2002’s Narcotic Lollipop, this CD was engineered by Roger Moutenot (who has also worked with Yo La Tengo, Sleater-Kinney and Lou Reed) and he captures Jones’ complex, enveloping sound very well. It is not exactly simple, not exactly clear sound, but it has a tremor to it, a shiver, as if the images you see and hear are merely resting on the surface of some bottomless pit of human feeling. Bluefolk is an entirely original excursion into the dark conjunction of traditional and rock music.
// Notes from the Road
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