Campfire Tales: a chat with The Bones Of J.R. Jones

Punk rockers and rootsy bluesmen don't normally spend time in the same music sphere, never mind actually inhabit the same personal head space. The Bones Of J.R. Jones is the roots rock incarnation of New York's Jonathon Linaberry. We gave a healthy thumbs up to his album Dark Was The Yearling back in May, and he kindly gave us a few moments of his time to answer some questions about his work.

Hi Jonathon! Please introduce yourselves to our readers!

Sure! I am the sole member of The Bones of J.R. Jones, a stomp blues band based in New York City.

You’ve had an interesting route into the kind of blues music you’re playing now. How did you get to where you are now?

I grew up playing a lot of punk rock and hardcore. I used to love spending my weekends going to the local community hall to see all ages shows. Eventually, I left my hometown and fell out of the scene. About that same time I was given a collection of roots music from my father and fell in love with the blues. In hindsight, I think what I loved about those old hardcore shows is what made me love the blues. It was nothing but passion and raw emotion.

A lot of the blues men couldn't play guitar too well, at least not at first… it was about what they were emoting, same with the music I was playing growing up. It felt like a natural progression at the time.

What are the main differences from your music now and, say, five years ago?

Confidence is the big one. I used to not like being up there by myself. Mistakes seem louder and carry more weight. I don't know if I just stopped caring or if I just became more comfortable… but I enjoy it more now.

I think that translates to a lot of the music I'm writing now. I'm not just writing to fit into a genre or to mimic an idol. I think I'm finally beginning to find my own voice.

Tell us about your album 'Dark Was The Yearling'.

It is my first full length. And I felt like I worked on that thing forever. (laughs) It's always a slow process I guess. But it was even slower this time around because of lack of money, conflicting schedules and the like. You never know what to expect. It was also the first time I was able to craft an album with the help of a producer (Charles Newman). Doing that took it a lot of places I never thought about going.

The result was a little cleaner than I originally intended, but I'm happy with what we produced.

If you had to choose a favourite track on the album, what would it be and why?

It would have to be ‘Dreams to Tell (reprise)’. That was the first song I wrote for the album and I think stayed the truest to its original version.

The reviews of your live shows are great. How would you describe them?

Well that's a vote of confidence! I haven't seen those reviews so please send them my way!

The shows are just me up there and I try to give them as much as energy as one person can. Generally they are full of me stomping as hard as I can on my kick drum and singing myself sore. It's a lot of fun.

Your press release says that you “inhabit the persona of the early twentieth-century blues musician”. Firstly, is that literal or metaphorical? And what are the differences between that persona and the equivalent today?

It's not literal. I'm not trying to be something other than what the music dictates. And yes, I can get lost in that sometimes. It's easier to write and perform, when I don't have to think about it. When I'm there just for the music. I think that's born out my love for the mystique that came a long with a lot of those old blues men. Selling your soul to the devil, being stabbed or shot in the belly when none of it actually happened, never really dying… just kind of disappearing.

Are we likely to see you playing shows in the UK anytime soon?

Invite me over. I will be there. Let's make it happen.

What’s up next for you?

Touring. And then some more touring. I'm also working on a score for a little indie film about biking from New York City to Alaska. And then probably another album.

What other artist(s) do you enjoy listening to?

I like to think my taste runs the gamut, but I do know I get stuck in my ruts and don't listen to as much new music as I would like. Most recently on rotation has been Tom Waits, Valerie June, Shakey Graves, Son House, R.L. Burnside, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Spirit Family Reunion, Sylvan Esso

How do you take your coffee?

Black or with a bit of cream. Depends on the time of day. But always hot.

Is there anything I should have asked today that I haven’t?

I don't think so. You were pretty thorough. You get a star in my book.

Dark Of The Yearling is available to download on iTunes now.

Photo courtesy of David Kepner.

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