Something happens to Jonathon Linaberry. It’s hard to put your finger on it, but when the musician takes the stage, surrounded by his many instruments, suddenly creating sound, projecting noise, drumming up long-gestating emotions, you know he’s transformed; a sense of purpose and poise envelops the air. “It’s very easy to be a different person when it comes to this project,” says Linaberry, who performs and completely inhabits the persona of the early-twentieth-century blues musician, The Bones of J.R. Jones. “For me it’s an outlet more than anything else.”
It’s via the live show that The Bones of J.R. Jones has established itself as a spellbinding musical force: there’s Linaberry, all by his lonesome, playing several instruments – guitar, banjo, bass drum, high-hat – all at once, transforming any setting, no matter how visibly modern, into an old-time roadside juke joint. Now, over several years performing, the traveling troubadour has refined his craft so poignantly as to craft a batch of highly refined, barn-burning blues and folk numbers. They take the form of Dark Was The Yearling, The Bones of J.R. Jones’ mesmerizing new LP.
The first full-length effort, both jarring and meditative in its juxtaposition of snarling electric guitar licks (“Fury of the Light”), banjo backbeats (“St. James’ Bed”) and acoustic charm (“The Plan”), is bookended by twin takes on the foot-stomping “Dreams to Tell.”
“That songs never gets old to me,” says Linaberry. “I felt like the album needed two versions of it… for better or worse.” The album’s highlight however, is undoubtedly “The Dark,” a somber ode to the musician’s late grandfather. The harmonic hymnal, written in the hours following the passing of a man whom Linaberry describes as “very much the patriarch” of his family, ended up shaping the entirety of the album, “giving it a much more heavier sound near the end of it.
“That was one of those rare instances that a song did come out in 24 hours,” Linaberry says o