Stone Jack Jones bestows upon us the truths of human nature that we are too blind ourselves to see.
Nashville musical outsider Stone Jack Jones inhabits his songs as much as they do him. Viewing the world with childlike amazement, the words that seep out of Jones are both plainspoken and revelatory. Resurfacing in 2014 from the mist of an eight-year absence, the cinematic Ancestor marked Jones' return, one that was nearly cut short. Stricken with a blood disease doctors were unable to fully treat, Jones was nearly returned to the dust, having received last rights.
This flirtation with death informs Love & Torture, Jones' new album. The wonderment of Ancestor remains, but a decided spiritual awakening wafts its way through the gnostic folk of Love & Torture. Recalling his time in the throes of near-death, Jones posits his existential dilemma on the taunting mantra "Thrill Thrill" and questions the end on the celebratory Last Supper vignette "Russia". Idealizing an afterlife on opener "Shine", Jones' incantations of anesthetized promises from either Saint Peter or Charon are echoed by the siren song of mentor Patty Griffin. Death's presence is manifested on the sawing "Circumstance", with Jones outrunning his adversary played by Lambchop's Kurt Wagner, proving those last rites untimely.
In Nashville, Jones has found a cadre of like-minded musicians who help bring forth his musical vision. With Griffin and Wagner as foils, Jones' Everyman vernacular is magnified by the beauty and sonic chaos fomented by instrumental collaborators Ryan Norris, Scott Martin and Kyle Hamlett and directed by producer Roger Moutenot. The communion between these musical souls that began with Ancestor's discordant bluegrass, carries over onto Love & Torture. Looking to let the roots of these songs grow organically, Jones and Moutenot recorded over a period of months, allowing Jones time to recover his health and focus the galaxy of his mind's eye before adding any sonic texture.
Darker yet more whimsical than Ancestor in spirit and tone, Love & Torture utilizes an arsenal of instrumentation, including a Chinese temple block and lollipop drum on "Shine", a saw on the tarrying love song "Q and K", and an Atari computer and toy piano on the foreboding dirge "Disappear". Adding to these layers of sound is a cast of wandering voices including Kelly Shay Hix, Elle Long, Ben Smyth and Jones' wife, Hollis Hampton Jones, creating a chorus of ghosts as on the closing homily "Say Amen".
With Ancestor serving as an artistic statement of remembrance, the recorded epiphany of Love & Torture is a resurrection of appreciation; a renewal of life, love and sorrow. Having cheated death and now bearing awakened senses, Jones, the dancing Pan, mutes any extraneous noise, showing us how to frolic in an innocent reality, one that's clearly present but rarely seen or experienced. Therein lies the art of Stone Jack Jones: he, a mystical voice, bestows upon us the truths of human nature that we are too blind ourselves to see. One can appreciate that Jones, the being, remains among us; those touched by his words consider it a blessing.