Inventive playing on good songs highlights a refreshing songwriting talent.
Ian Jones falls squarely into the singer-songwriter category, and these six songs could so easily have turned out as bland as far too much of the genre does. What makes this E.P. stand out is the imaginative use of sounds and instruments.
The organ and slide guitar on the opening ‘Evergreens’ give the song a Jackson Browne quality, think ‘Doctor My Eyes’ or ‘Late for the Sky’. The guitar solo on the atmospheric ‘Born Again Sinner’ is one of the highlights of the record. According to Jones he was aiming for something like Tom Petty’s ‘Runnin’ Down a Dream‘ here. ‘Liars, Criminals, Beggars and Thieves’ has a definite Byrds feel to it, with Jones singing sounding very much like Roger McGuinn over the jangly guitar. ‘Hallelujah’, not the Leonard Cohen song, has a gospel organ over more slide guitar. ‘Promised Land’, not the Chuck Berry song, is the most country flavoured song here, with pedal steel dominating the sound. Closing song ‘Last Call’ could have come out of The Mavericks songbook. The shortest song on offer, it does what a final track should do, makes you wind the E.P. back and play it again. Producer Jesse Siebenberg, whose other credits include Lucas Nelson and Supertramp, has done a great job creating an album feel out of six quite different songs.
Ian Jones doesn’t have the most distinctive voice in Americana, but it is easy to listen to and draws you into his words. Those words, mostly written well before 2020 shook the world up, still have a resonance in our new situation. Jones says “I wrote ‘Hallelujah’ on Christmas Eve 2018 after a year of loss and brutality. I was reflecting on how fortunate I was to be able to be in my kitchen cooking when so many had either passed on or were in a less desirable situation. This is a song of hope and a nod to those we have lost.” ‘Evergreens’ itself is about the delights of fishing with friends in the forests of his native Washington state.
Information about who plays what on this E.P. is hard to track down, but whoever it is there is some fine playing here that complements Jones’ voice and words. There is enough variation of pace, tone and sound to make the six track record feel a lot more like an album. In fact Jones says that this is a taster for a “full length” record as yet untitled, and with no release date planned. ‘Evergreens’ is an enjoyable listen, but making it half of a much larger whole would I think diminish the songs. They sit well together and have a unity of sound and theme that would likely be lost among the six further songs that are promised for the album. These are good songs and deserve to stand on their own merits.