Deep Dive: The Bones of J.R. Jones, “Ones To Keep Close”

One of my favorite new albums comes by way of the Catskills, courtesy of Jonathan Robert Linaberry.  Linaberry, aka The Bones of J.R. Jones, feels like a man out of time, which is not to say his time is coming. Rather, it’s a premonition that he would be at home in several eras come before us. Had we been wandering past an old juke joint in upstate New York in 1954, this music and this man would likely have poured forth from it.

Ones To Keep Close is a mixture of American heritage as we like to think of it: soulful, somewhat sorrowful and blue collar, bare-handed but determined. “Sinner’s Song” has an Irish folk backbone, and “Please” draws on gospel structures as effectively as a Baptist preacher. One of my favorites hits us three tracks in. “Slow Down” has a remarkably seductive pace, starting out with just J.R. and his guitar until the base and the ivories kick in at 1:00, followed by haunting backup vocals a few seconds later. This is a slow burn, fired by a grunged guitar solo at 2:20 that slowly fades to nothing. J.R. Jones has America in his bones.

“Slow Down” slides into one of the strongest songs on the album, “Know My Name.” This song is just so smooth, traditional at heart but edged by funk, it’s begging to be showcased on an indie soundtrack. And “Die Young,” where J.R. slows down with melancholy softness, is the perfect compliment to the summer that’s surely coming. It’s been a long time since I’ve loved an album this purely, and I’m so glad to have found it now. ‘Tis truly one to keep close.

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