Laney Jones Kicks Off Folk Across the Street’s 2017  Barn Concert Series

Jun 13, 2017
Photo by: Darin Back Laney Jones and the Spirits

Laney Jones hears spirits. No, she’s not possessed. The Spirits – Matthew Tonner, Tre Hester and Brian Dowd – are her band. Put them together and you have Laney Jones and the Spirits, who will perform this Sunday, Father’s Day, June 18, at 7 p.m. at 228 North St. in West Creek as part of the Folk Across the Street backyard barn concert series. Advance tickets are $20 and may be reserved by calling 609-296-9150. They will be $25 at the door unless sold out, a distinct possibility considering the intimacy of the venue.

Now, Jones hears a lot of things besides spirits.

“When people see the banjo, they expect bluegrass,” the 25-year-old songwriter said. “While I have deep love and respect for that music, I have really eclectic taste. I listen to everything from early folk roots to hip-hop. I can’t help but take influence from everything around me. … I wanted to prove that I can bring traditional instruments into unexplored realms.”

Indeed, her Facebook page says her influences are “everything and everyone.”

Not surprisingly, reviewers can’t pin Jones down. The roots music magazine No Depression said, “It’s not quite folk, it has hints of pop perhaps, and it rocks like no other.” Elmore Magazine called her a “folk-rock singer” in one paragraph but in the next said she is “extending her musical style to include not just folk but pop, rock, and blues-y jazz too.” Jones herself told Rolling Stone, which in 2016 declared her one of “10 new country artists you need to know,” that “I love seventies Bob Dylan, The Band. There are soul elements too. It doesn’t feel like we are coloring inside the lines. We’re trying to be thoughtful with our arrangements and flush them out in different ways.” She now prefers to call her musical style “retro majestic.”

Jones started writing songs and performing in local juke joints while studying for an international business degree at Florida’s Rollins College. She decided that music, not business, was her life’s mission during a junior year semester in China and, upon her return to the U.S., attended the prestigious Berklee College of Music for a year and a half studying songwriting. Her career took off like a rocket: performing at both Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center, being featured in the PBS “Great Performances” series, winning the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, and having her music used on film and TV soundtracks from the likes of Disney and Dreamworks. She and her band perform about 140 times each year.

So, what is The SandPaper’s take on Laney Jones and the Spirits? Well, after taking a YouTube journey it is impossible to say anything but “all of the above.”

“Run Wild” is pop, pure and simple, despite her banjo. “Who Could Love,” on the other hand, is country rock. “The Simple Truth” is folk, especially when Jones plays a Dylan-like harmonica. “Troubled Mind” is bluegrass. “Pour Out the Whiskey” is blues. In other words, Laney Jones can keep critics busy for years trying to define her.

Hey, that has worked for Dylan for decades.

The Father's Day concert will be a lot like Jones’ music. People are invited to bring an entrée (and their own adult beverages) for a potluck dinner beginning at 6 p.m., another case of not knowing exactly what you’re going to get.

— Rick Mellerup

Laney Jones and the Spirits "Allston" at Full Sail Live (2016)
Laney Jones performs "Allston (Dance Around)" from her self-titled album. lyrics and music by Laney Jonesperformed by Laney Jones and the Spirits - Laney Jones, Matthew Tonner (guitar), Tre Hester (bass), Brian Dowd (drums) (Video by: Laney Jones)
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