Glenn Jones - My Garden State
- Stewart Smith
- 15 May 2013
Album of John Fahey-esque impressionistic storytelling from American Primitive guitarist
For an artist whose compositions are entirely instrumental, Glenn Jones has a special talent for impressionistic storytelling. Like a musical translation of a haiku or imagist poem, his finest songs reflect on an image or idea, bringing them to life with his expressively finger-picked acoustic guitar or banjo. 'A Snapshot of Mon, Scotland 1957', the gorgeously evocative highlight of his last album The Wanting, is one such example, and My Garden State offers several more. Composed at the Jones family home while caring for his mother, an Alzheimer's sufferer, several tracks meditate on the landscape of New Jersey.
The rolling banjo melody of 'Across The Tappen Zee', named after a bridge across the Hudson River, takes Jones and guest Laura Baird back to the Garden State, while 'Alcouer Gardens', dedicated to his mother's care home, makes use of environmental sound, with the rumble of distant thunder and the drenching hiss of rain providing a bed for Jones' guitar. The spontaneously composed 'Vernal Pool' evokes spring light glancing off a murky woodland pond, Jones's thumb picking out a brooding bass figure, while his fore-fingers part the branches to let the sun shine through. 'Going Back To East Montgomery' shows Jones's ability to develop melodic ideas over an extended form. Beginning as poignant minor-key Appalachia, the piece gathers momentum as Jones and guest guitarist Meg Baird's treble notes bob and weave around an indelible bass pulse, the harmonic modulations creating an emotional push and pull that reflects the song's bittersweet sentiment. This miniature New Jersey suite concludes with the utterly beautiful 'Bergen County Farewell', a warmly reflective and deeply touching folk ramble.
Less focussed on raga and drone than the late Jack Rose, Jones prefers to explore American folk forms, adding harmonic elements from the European classical tradition a la John Fahey. Graceful and poetic, My Garden State cements Jones's reputation as the leading carrier of the American Primitive guitar tradition.