Glenn Jones – The Wanting

You could lose a hundred afternoons listening to these guitar and banjo pieces, and never notice or care. The onetime Cul De Sac leader and ardent devotee of the “American Primitive” steel string finger-picking school led by John Fahey has been floating under the radar for ages, even though he’s pushing 60. This CD (and double-LP package), his first for Thrill Jockey, deserves to open up a wider range of ears to his acoustic mastery and, hopefully, the burgeoning underground of guitar-picking visionaries whose gift for musical invention parallels other sympathetic movements, including punk, noise, free improvisation and ambient electronic excursions. Actually, everything you’d find in Fahey’s metaphorical kitchen sink.

The 17-1/2 minute “The Orca Grand Cement Factory at Victorville,” which closes the album in duet with percussionist Chris Corsano, offers direct homage to Fahey’s remarkable sonic collage “The Portland Cement Factory at Monolith, California.” (As if to echo the late guitar legend’s affinity for raw, random sound, the rumble of passing trains can be heard in the mix, as Jones recorded the whole album in his Massachusetts apartment). The conscious rough edges are mostly atypical, but Jones factors in a lot of variety and color so it’s not strictly the suspended blissful articulation of single notes shimmering like clouds in tracks like “A Snapshot of Mom, Scotland, 1957” or “My Charlotte Blue Notebook.” The banjo pieces (“The Great Swamp Way Route,” “Twenty-Three Years in Happy Valley, or Love Among the Chicken Shit”) flaunt an assertive rusticity, a winking regard for idiom and an eagerness to engage the listener with personality – not merely chops. Jones breaks out a slide to pointedly melancholy effect, as well, dipping back into those ghostly Fahey vibes for “Even to Win Is to Fail,” whose shivering bent notes could tingle the spine of a jellyfish.

Glenn Jones
The Wanting
[Thrill Jockey]