Stone Jack Jones burnt sage before his set on June 25th at The East Room, a venue in the middle of East Nashville. Other performers have done it, sure, but for Mr. Jack Jones, clad in black with his trademark undertaker’s hat cutting a sharper silhouette of darkness in the already dim room, it would have been stranger if he didn’t burn it.
‘Strange’ is not the most accurate word for Mr. Jack Jones. Nor is ‘folk-singer,’ though it does him some justice but does not imply the breadth of darkness and wry humor of his catalog. Stone Jack Jones could be the sonic equivalent of Henry Darger, a self-contained outsider with an enormous saga to communicate. He is by no means an accessible artist, nor actually the greatest singer. Some of his compositions err on the primitive side until you witness them live, when it becomes clear that every nuance has been meditated on.
Throughout this year he has released a string of singles, each completely consistent with the delirious, uneasy vibe he has built his career on. The video for “Jackson” is perfection in its own right; it watches like a memory so far forgotten that it might have been imagined. It’s a fitting summary to the project as a whole, but even an accurate portrayal of Stone Jack Jones is going to raise many more questions than it answers; namely “Who is that guy?”
He has a mess of a past swirling behind him, the legend being that he was the epileptic son of West Virginian coal miners, who, upon being rejected from the service, went on to live a transient life, carny and ballet dancer among his accumulated professions. For all intents and purposes, it seems like he waltzed into Nashville this year, guitar over one shoulder, his latest album completely mastered and already distributed, thanks to a deal made with some nice gentleman at the intersection of hwys 61 and 49.
The reality of it is that “Ancestors” was released March 4th of this year via Western Vinyl, the third of his discography. True, it was about eight years between this one and his last effort, “Bluefolk” and 12 after his first, “Narcotic Lollipop;” his schedule, like his style, is protracted. He has been active in the Nashville music community, collaborating with long-time friends Patty Griffith and producer Robert Moutenot. He has also been workshopping with members of other notable Nashville bands (Lambchop, LYLAS and Wooden Wand) to perfect his current representation.
His current representation is much cleaner that his prior recordings. His former noise mélange has been refined a bit. Stripped away is the junkyard racketry and unnecessary extras; remaining are the closest things to songs he has likely every produced. They are still discordant, slightly unsettling and saturated with the blood-warm fuzz prevalent in all of his work, but the bones are closer to a skeleton than they have ever been before.
Stone Jack Jones has his finger hooked into the orifice of some higher level of consciousness, and is more than willing to guide a listener’s finger to the same destination if they have the mind to go through with it. It was an intensely intimate show that evening, wherein three musician’s silenced a roomful of hipsters. Every song was performed true to its recording, with nary a creak or lick of feedback out of place. I left the show convinced that Stone Jack Jones is able to listen to my dreams at night. I also washed my hands as soon as I got home.