“Primitive” is an intriguing descriptor when marketing the lively instrumental prowess of Glenn Jones. Stylistically, Jones is an ancient bard, peddling textured six-string stories that sound as if plucked directly from the musical residue of the Appalachian Mountains. Influenced as he is in the John Fahey school of American Primitive Guitar, Jones’ skills are anything but basic.
Of all the disciples of American Primitive trailblazer John Fahey, Glenn Jones has always seemed the most devout, immersing himself in arcane stringed instruments, self-invented tunings and archival treasures as he meticulously weaves luminescent missives which doggedly carry a flame constantly under threat from the modern world. But, though an enraptured rabbit strums by the river on the front cover, the dedication on his follow-up to 2013’s My Garden State reveals that Jones’ mom passed last year, blessing the heartfelt reverie Mother’s Day with an extra degree of poignant emotional resonance. Fleeting was recorded by engineer and musician Laura Baird in a house at Rancocas Creek in New Jersey.
When you hear “Flower Turned Inside-Out”, the opening tracks to Glenn Jones’s latest record, Fleeting, you might be inclined to think you’ve heard this before. The track is firmly in the American Primitive tradition, spinning notes into a pastoral whirl that is both tuneful and challenging, bright and yet bittersweet. But as the song moves on, and the record that follows it, it becomes clear that any notion that Jones stands in the shadow of John Fahey is misguided.
Guitarist Glenn Jones recorded his sixth solo full-length, Fleeting, at a friend's house bordering the Rancocas Creek in Mount Holly, New Jersey. As such, the album has a casual, lived-in feel, and the sounds of the outdoors seep in through the residence's un-soundproofed walls. This provides a nice complement to Jones' freely flowing guitar playing, which utilizes traditional fingerpicking techniques filtered through his inventive, unconventional tunings.
Just two years since his ode to human and space/place relationships, My Garden State, Glenn Jones is back in March 2015 with the ten-strong collection of alternatively strung fables that is Fleeting. Jones retains his reservation at the top of the American primitive class of guitarists, blending a signature classic country, finger-picking style with modern elements; the use of dissonance and non-standard tunings evoke an eeriness which completes the quiver of human experience he covers from corner to corner in his songs, each a story. Recorded, sound-un-proofed, in a house on the banks of Rancocas Creek, in his native New Jersey, Fleeting is in some lights a celebration of a number of the female figurines in Jones' life; Cleo, the new baby of his friend; his own mother; and the mother of the natural surroundings of both New Jersey and Spokane, Washington.
The network of exceptional solo acoustic guitarists that emerged during the last decade has proven to be a restless bunch. In recent years, William Tyler went full electric, even recruiting a full backing band. Steve Gunn has morphed into an accomplished singer-songwriter, now fronting an outfit that resides in the borderlands of cosmic country and psychedelic rock.
Glenn Jones — Fleeting (Thrill Jockey)Photo by Jesse SheppardAmerican primitive as a genre describer barely hints at its true nature and qualities. The name suggests a lack of sophistication, technique or development. Still, anyone who has ever heard anything by John Fahey, the supposed originator of American primitive (and yes, I know he borrowed it from painting, but meanings evolve don’t they?), Sandy Bull or Robbie Basho will tell you just how complex and virtuosic their music can be.