Using unconventional tunings for both guitar and banjo, Glenn Jones‘ latest exploration of the texture and tone he can wring from five, six strings and more cements his deserved reputation as one of the singular exponent of both instruments.
Taking to rural New Jersey to record the album, Jones and engineer Laura Baird took no particular measures to soundproof the surroundings, instead allowing the sounds of the outside world and the house itself to mingle with his music. This they do most prominently in the rhythmic choir of crickets, amphibians and other wildlife that ride along to the rollicking album closer “June Too Soon, October All Over”, a scene depicted artistically in the guitar-playing hare that graces the album sleeve.
In this sense at least, Glenn Jones is very much a traditionalist, but within his chosen field of American Primitivism, a broad and accepting church where experimentation, musical deviation and an avant-garde sensibility is positively encouraged. Listening to the ten instrumentals on Fleeting, it’s easy to place Jones’ music squarely in that august lineage (one nodded to explicitly in the title and cycling guitar filigrees of “Portrait Of Basho As A Young Dragon”) while also feeling the echoes still reverberating from his membership of the exceptional avant-rock outfit Cul de Sac. Likewise, when he takes up the banjo on “Cléo Awake” or “Spokane River Falls”, the first plangent notes pluck the listener straight into the Appalachian heritage of a thousand interrelated bluegrass tunes, at once deceptively simple and filled with a myriad of emotions when turned out in the right company, such as they are here among the guitar evolutions and extrapolations as much as the sound of the waterfalls themselves.This is where Fleeting works best, flowing serenely through a series of delicate vignettes and longer meanderings which allow Jones to take the listener gently by the ears, there to reveal his intimate knowledge and sense of place, time and history one by one. This he does perhaps most purely on Fleeting when pairing the hauntingly familiar acoustic guitar upswell and rebound of “Close to the Ground” with its refulgent banjo companion “Cléo Asleep”, touching those heartstrings all the way from Paris, Texas to the creekside in New Jersey. Individually complete and perfect in themselves, each is revealed with an unflinching clarity that conjoins with every other to create a fulsome sound world that speaks with both nimble fingers and a heartfelt emotional dexterity to which it is something of a privilege to pay witness.