Wednesday, February 08, 2006
I'm not even going to pretend to have any kind of inside track on Fern Jones. Never heard of her 'til recently. A few intriguing reviews here and there, and I figgered I'd take a chance. Lucky me.
This is country. Jesus country. Those two words have been inextricably linked throughout the relatively short history of American music. Backwoods preachers and sawdust mandolin theologists have always vied and plucked for your soul, opining some of the most fascinating conclusions drawn from the dusty family bible (or a copy of Paradise Lost). You can't discuss the roots of country without Jesus, Satan, and sanctification getting a nod. Even sanctified sinners like Hank Williams, George Jones, and Merle Haggard have recorded gospel songs to great commercial success. Saturday night vs. Sunday morning. 'Course that god fearin'/flauntin' tension exists in most forms of secular music, with the exception of indie rock, where Western religious imagery is used ironically or as a "clever" springboard to show how knowledgeable they are about their obscure "references".
But back to the point. Fern Jones sings about Jesus. Several reviewers have drawn the line between Jones and the Louvin Brothers (particularly "Satan is Real"), which is apt. Jones and the Brothers both deal in a slightly eerie brand of tent revival theology. Both evoke the sound of country road stop offs, a meal and some preachin', a bed for the night, and back on the road, Bible in hand, to the next forgotten town. Jones should know. Her husband was a self-made pulpit man, taking their singing and sermonizing across the South.
The reissue, Glory Road , collects her lone proper album, Singing a Happy Song, plus bonus material from a privately made record. Produced by Mac Wiseman, and featuring Hank Garland and Floyd Cramer, among others, as backing musicians, the album is, pardon me, a revelation. Jones' voice is pure honky tonk angel, and the music teeters dangerously close to jukejoint rockabilly on several cuts. Notable is a guitar solo on "Strange Things..." that would make Sterling Morrison and Lee Ranaldo proud. An unearthly artifact from the so-called "old weird America", full of heaven, grace, Southern gothic theology, and the blood of Christ culled from moonshine. Jones wants to, paraphrased, save your soul and dare your spirit to move.
Fern Jones: Strange Things Happening Every Day (mp3)
Fern Jones: You Aint Got Nuthin' (mp3)
Thanks. Check out the fantastic Numero Group, the label that issued Fern Jones.