It took some guts to make this record. Some will unfairly dismiss Glenn Jones solo debut as a John Fahey rip-off because, in departing from the electrified Aegean surf music of his band Cul De Sac, he’s made a collection of acoustic guitar pieces steeped in Americana . The risk is only compounded by the fact that he’s a longtime fan, friend, and collaborator of the late bodhisattva of the steel stringed guitar. Jones doesn’t deny his debts. You can hear Fahey in both his playing – the heavy slide attack, the unstoppable thumb-picked bass patterns, the melodies steeped in country blues and garbed in classical harmony – and his conception of how music fits into, and speaks about his life.
The eight pieces on This Is The Wind That Blows It Out use compositional chops and instrumental technique to illustrate and animate a gallery of events and persons drawn from his own life. One tune is named for a friend’s coat, another dedicated to the person who lent him the money to buy a guitar, and “One Jack Rose (That I Mean)” simultaneously nods to the only other musician to appear on this CD and to Captain Beefheart. Twining devotions yet further, there’s one called “Fahey’s Car” – shades of the Captain’s “Dali’s Car.”
But nomenclature is also where the differences begin. Jones’ titles don’t connect the obscure, or fiction-laden, web of associations like Fahey’s; one might speculate that he has less to hide, or hide from, than did Fahey. Jones also sounds far less ambivalent about cultivating his technique than Fahey did in his last couple decades (you don’t work out a picking pattern as rich and dense as “Nora’s Leather Jacket” by hocking your guitar).
Jones is also a bit of an audiophile, which works to this record’s benefit. Every plucked, buzzing string is exquisitely registered. But, as the bulk of the Windham Hill catalog demonstrates, pretty sounds are never enough. What brings me back to “Friday Nights With” is its aura of mystery and tenderness, and it’s the jubilance that Jones and Rose impart on “Linden Avenue Stomp” that makes me laugh rather than grumble at their shameless theft of “Steel Guitar Rag’s” hook. What the hell, Bob Wills and Leon McAuliffe lifted it from someone else anyway, so Jones is just emulating tradition. The fact that he makes it his own is what marks this record as a lean and lively hound amongst the sheep.
By Bill Meyer