Interview: The Bones of J.R. Jones

JR

Photo credit: AJ Mason

“I grew up listening to punk rock; I fell in love with the blues and folk music when I was 18 or 19 years old after my dad gave me a collection of American roots music, and it totally changed the landscape for me,” says blues man Jonathan Linaberry.  “Reflecting on it, what I’d love about the punk and hardcore scenes was that it was all raw emotion.  No one could really play their instruments, it was a lot of yelling.  The old blues, the delta blues, Son House and Blind Lemon Jefferson, folks like that, was a lot of howling and not very technically gifted guitar playing.  They had their own amazing style, it was intense emotion, and it changed me.”

Linaberry makes his own brand of American roots and the blues, performing under the moniker The Bones of J.R. Jones. “It’s not such much an alter ego as it is who I am without any of the moral better judgments I have as an individual, a lot of my songs are refracted through that looking glass— how I really feel or how I really want things to be or what are really the things that are bothering me,” he explains.  “It’s a more primitive version of myself.”

His second album, Spirit’s Furnace, a righteously spine-tingling 9-song collection of rootsy goodness, is set for release on April 15th, and shows a delicately-balanced diversity in the artist’s sound.  “I recorded seven or eight songs in a studio out in L.A. last summer, and they ended up all being electric.  It was my first time getting into a studio and not being afraid of it, and doing everything  I could to the songs while I was in the studio and not being overly concerned with how it would transfer to the live show.  I just wanted to create a piece of music,” he explains.  “When I listened back to the tracks, a lot of them felt too big, so I went back and did some home recording, and that’s where ones like ‘Wedding Song’ came out, the stripped-down version of ‘Dry Dirt’, and it balanced it  all out.”  “Wedding Song”, an autobiographical and tender tune written last fall around the time of Linaberry’s marriage, is beautifully contrasted with the electrified, foot-stomping grit of songs on the album like “Hammers and Nails” and “Dry Dirt,” a song which appears on the album twice.  “For the last five years, I’ve been toying with the song, ‘Dry Dirt’, which is on the album twice with two different versions, and has been, quite literally, the bane of my existence,” says Linaberry with a laugh.  “I hated that song, it kept changing, I couldn’t find the right placement for it, it never sat right…in a weird way, I’m so happy I got one off my plate, it’s like closure.”

Currently, he’s on tour with G. Love & Special Sauce, which will bring him to the Music City to perform at 3rd & Lindsley on Sunday, April 3rd.  “Touring with G. has been a good experience on a number of levels; it’s inspiring because I’m so used to playing dives, which I love, but they’re usually bars that are loud and there’s beer everywhere and it smells like piss, and this tour has shown me the nicer side of that—playing nicer venues, I get my own dressing room, there are bottles of water for me,” he laughs.  “I’ve also met amazing people, and G., he’s a machine, there’s no one like him.  He has amazing chops, and it makes me want to be a better musician.”

Purchase tickets to Sunday’s show in Nashville here.

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Susan Hubbard

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