Rock It: American Primitive guitarist Glenn Jones to perform at Black Sparrow

Posted on November 13, 2013


Rock It: American Primitive guitarist Glenn Jones to perform at Black Sparrow

Glenn Jones (Photo Provided)

Glenn Jones (Photo Provided)

By Rachael Mattice

Behind solo guitarist Glenn Jones’ red-rimmed glasses is a veteran songwriter and stylistic practitioner of “American Primitive” acoustic guitar playing.

American Primitivism is an avant-garde style that mixes southern blues with ragtime and was derived from steel-string fingerstyle guitarist John Fahey in the 1950s. Fahey used his label Takoma Records to school other guitar visionaries such as Peter Lang, Robbie Basho, Leo Kottke and Jones.

After getting a start in the instrumental band Cul de Sac, New Jersey native Jones is celebrating his state pride with his latest LP and fifth solo album, “My Garden State,” released on May 14. Greater Lafayette fans can hear the album’s subtle, reflective and meditative tracks when Jones performs at 9 p.m. Monday at the Black Sparrow.

Glenn Jones "My Garden State"

Glenn Jones “My Garden State”

Jones wrote “My Garden State” in the northern New Jersey home where he grew up during his mother’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease several years ago.

Despite this, “My Garden State” delivers a relaxed sound using alternate tunings and partial capos, opening and closing with soft wind chimes and chirping birds to mimic the soothing scene of a back yard.

“Across the Tappan Zee” is one of two banjo-heavy songs, a duo with Laura Baird. In his liner notes, Jones describes the other, “Going Back to East Montgomery,” recorded with another Baird sister, Meg, as a “shot of sweet joy.”

Although seemingly out of tune at specific spots, “Going Back to East Montgomery” is an eight-minute composition successfully proving a difficult songwriting task possible by keeping the listener intrigued.

“The Vernal Pool” is placed in the middle and set in minor key signatures, ascending and building speed to a catastrophic climax. Along with “Alcoeur Gardens,” the song was composed spontaneously in the studio, a technique Jones developed on tour with musician Damo Suzuki.

“My Garden State,” as well as Jones’ other pieces of work, provides a full fingerpicking sound that emphasizes the space between notes as much as the individual notes themselves.

Jones’ music requires an attentive and trained ear for experimental guitar styles to fully appreciate the personal reflection in his music.

Mattice is a producer for the Journal & Courier. She can be reached on Twitter @RachaelM_JC.

Posted in: "Rock It" Column