New Release Friday: The Bones of J.R. Jones – Ones to Keep Close

Posted by Greg on May 11, 2018 in Music |

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While we’re still reeling from the loss of Scott Hutchinson, there’s also something to be said for picking up our heads and marching forward. Thankfully, Ones to Keep Close, the third album from New York-based singer songwriter Jonathon Linaberry is released today. Using the stage name, The Bones of JR Jones, the album is a tightly focused, deeply affecting set of 11 songs that run the gamut from blues to folk to soul and gospel. Album opener “The Drop” is a straightforward bar-rock scorcher with a tinge of blues and an effortlessness that is far too hard to ignore. In many ways, “The Drop” serves as a reminder that while sophomore album Spirit’s Furnace was compelling, Ones to Keep Close is going to challenge that notion with every passing second.

The album’s lead single and arguably one of the strongest songs of the year is “Burden,” a timeless duet with Nicole Atkins that feels eerily reminiscent of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and delivers in every sense of the word. Buttressed by sprite piano, foot-stomping percussion and a languid, sun-soaked veneer that seems tailor-made for summer barbecues, this is blues-tinged folk at its absolute best.

Ones to Keep Close is dotted with a strong dose of introspective ballads and the first of those is “Slow Down,” an aching and highly effective ballad that just might be one of his best. Weary, whiskey-soaked and open-hearted, “Slow Down” is another step forward on an album that so far has yet to disappoint. That trend continues on the rumbling “Know My Name,” a distinctly swampy cut that is aided by a bevy of handclaps and some of Linaberry’s strongest and most confident vocals to date. “Know My Name” however is most memorable because its the first of about a half-dozen cuts on Ones to Keep Close that feels culled from the Deep South and not a Brooklyn recording studio.

The album’s first half closes out with the prayer-like ballad “Sinner Song” and the rousing rocker “Please.” The former is a placid effort with soulful vocals and a sonic landscape almost identical to “Slow Down.” Sounding haggard, desperate and deeply remorseful, “Sinner Song” is a cut that must be heard to be fully realized, mesmerizing from start to finish it is a stern reminder than Linaberry is an artist to keep an eye on in 2018 and beyond. On the contrary, the gospel-flavored “Please” is a two-minute effort with handclaps and Linaberry’s yearning vocals. While it’s easily the shortest song on the album it’s also one of the most provocative.

The second half opens with “I See You,” a brawny slice of blues-tinged garage rock that feels akin to Black Keys, Alabama Shakes and the North Mississippi All-Stars. There’s armfuls of swagger and halfway through the song yields to a maelstrom of attitude, searing guitar work and another hearty round of handclaps. The entire thing feels loose, swampy and utterly refreshing. Though there’s plenty of moments on the album that evoke a Muscle Shoals recording studio, nowhere is that more fully realized than on “I See You.” Not content to leave the Deep South, Linaberry swings for the fences on the well-worn R&B ballad “Enemy,” an effort that would make both Leon Bridges and Paul Janeway quite proud. Supported by sultry horns, “Enemy” is a stunning effort that towers above its contemporaries.

Intent on keeping the momentum going, Ones to Keep Close surges forward on the gospel-flavored “Sister,” an organ-drenched affair that drips with the sweetness of azalea and honeysuckle. Once again, there’s a lot more Mississippi Delta than Brooklyn sidewalks at work here. The last of the ruminative offerings is “Die Young,” a spartan and understated effort that focuses mostly on Linaberry and his trusted guitar. The song rises towards its conclusion but never once loses its way. Guided by the deft hand of producer Rob Niederpruem, “Die Young” is another sterling effort from an artist who most assuredly put his best foot forward. Returning to the halcyon heights of “I See You” and “The Drop” with the organ-drenched “Take Me Away,” a free-wheeling, back-slipping, hip-shaking, whiskey-swilling good time. Rousing and riveting, it just might be the absolute best way to close out an album.

In the course of 11 tracks, Linaberry and Niederpruem have carved out what is easily their most focused and fully-realized work to date. Armed with both this album and Spirit’s Furnace, The Bones of J.R. Jones is riding a wave of good fortune that many bands might spend decades trying to find. Though we won’t see another release from him for at least a year, we’re already eager and anxious for more. Granted, this might be a heavy weekend for some, but albums like this are a refreshing reminder that timeless roots music is still being made. Even in Brooklyn.

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