Guitarist Glenn Jones’ newest album, “Fleeting,” is an emotional ride that is told all through his storybook-like fingers.
How do you tell a story without words? Words are second-nature to us and the most efficient way to relay a story to other people — you can’t explain a sunset without telling people the colors that you saw. But Jones has learned to work around these seemingly inherent rules with a masterful style of playing that is as emotive and detailed, if not more so in some instances, as the words put to paper by other artists. Jones practices the art of American Primitive Guitar, a style that was invented by guitarist John Fahey in the 1950s. It is form that incorporates a lot of different styles of picking and focuses on fully realized guitar compositions rather than fostering a proclivity to rip off a fleeting guitar solo. If a picture is worth a thousand words, consider Jones a dutiful painter of experiences.
To get into the right artisanal and spiritual space, “Fleeting” was recorded in Mount Holly, New Jersey, in a house along on the banks of the Rancocas Creek. A person’s home is filled with stories and artifacts, such as a framed portrait or the knife cuts laid bare into a kitchen cutting board. This space helped set the tone for an album that feels very lived-in and practical. The album on a whole deals with the theme of watching life pass before you and finding the connective resonance of the people and experiences you have encountered along the way. Recording in a house deals head on with that theme, as memories can remind us of the past, present and future in vivid ways.
Jones certainly reached into his personal trove of experiences to construct the thematic arc of “Fleeting.” He wades in the waters of nostalgia on “Spokane River Falls,” which is a tribute to his hometown city of Spokane, Washington. The banjo picks a mysterious and fog-swept melody that hints at grandeur lying somewhere hidden from the obvious path. The melody washes away in the roaring current of a recording of the falls, as if to say even Jones can’t even capture the full essence of where he is with just his guitar. “Cleo Awake” and “Cleo Asleep” are counterparts on the album, with the same melody being played on guitar on the former and muted banjo on the second. The songs were inspired by the birth of his friend’s daughter and they are tender musings that contemplate the miracle of life. The reflective picking on “Portrait Of Basho As A Young Dragon” is in memory of one of Jones’ biggest influences and friend, Robbie Basho.
Jones doesn’t relegate the album to just telling his own story. The open interpretation of the songs allow you to imprint your own experiences into their melodies like lying down in the tall grasses of the meadow, but the distinct tones of the songs will draw you to different emotional planes. “Flower Turned Inside-Out” is a bright and welcoming song that signals at new horizons with excitement, though it is immediately contrasted with the prickly and pensive “In Durance Vile.” Introspective and warm, “Mother’s Day” is a rich composition that will ultimately draw you to thoughts of your mother just based on the title, specific memories fading in and out in snapshots of pictures and birthday cards.
“Fleeting” draws you in and provides a safe space for you to reflect on the eternal, yet finite passage of time. It today’s culture it is something everyone should take the time to do.
- Glenn Jones
Release: March 18, 2016
Notable Tracks: “Spokane River Falls,” “Flower Turned Inside-Out,” “Mother’s Day”