Thursday, March 16, 2023

Ian Jones: “Results Not Typical” (2023) CD Review

Ian Jones is a singer and songwriter based in Seattle. In 2021 he put out an EP titled The Evergreens, and is now following that with a new full-length release, Results Not Typical (his first full-length album in more than a decade). The album features all original material, written or co-written by Ian Jones. The songs are in the folk and country realms, most of them dealing in one way or another with the road. Joining him on these tracks are Jason Soda on guitar, Dave Palmer on piano and keyboards, Aaron Embry on organ and piano, Gabe Noel on bass and cello, Johnny Flaugher on bass, Joey Waronker on drums, and Jesse Siebenberg on pedal steel and electric guitar. Jesse Siebenberg also produced this album. There are also some guests on certain tracks.

The disc opens with a song that I will be adding to my road trip play list, “Rollin’,” in which Ian Jones sings, “So then I put my feet on uncertain ground/With my guard up to keep from falling/But I didn’t seem to find any peace around/And so I hit that road, and I’m still rollin’.” This song has a sweet country flavor, with some nice work by Dave Palmer on piano, and also by Jesse Siebenberg on pedal steel. There is a lonesome vibe about this song, putting me in mind of certain road trips when I was out in the middle of the country on my own. That’s followed by “You Can’t,” which begins with a glorious burst of energy, and then settles into a more relaxed vibe. “I’ve been here before/I’ll be there again/It can be hard to handle/You try to run, but you can’t/You think there’s a way/To take back what you say/But it’s permanent.” That’s interesting. Is anything permanent? This song puts us at a crossroads, sets us in between. And isn’t that where we spend most of our lives, between here and there? Between memory and hope, between regret and longing. And that is the feeling of this song, in large part because of his vocal delivery.

“Lost Highway” has a good, pleasant groove, one that makes me want to move, to get on the road. For, yes, as you might have guessed from its title, this is another great song to have with you on the road. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “Hard to travel with no destination/And I, I’ve been driving since the break of day.” And here we have some horns to help us on our way. Lee Thornburg does the horn arrangement, and Paulie Cerra is on the woodwinds. I also like Aaron Embry’s organ work. This song delivers a good dose of optimism, “Grey skies will be blue again.” I think we can all use a bit of that, eh?

In Steve Owen’s “Longing To Be” (a song I’ve included on a few mix tapes and CDs for the road), he sings, “It’s a different kind of cursing, but ‘someday’ is the dirtiest word.” That is a line I have thought about a lot over the years. And on this album, Ian Jones gives us a song titled “Someday,” which begins with these lines: “Take me by the hand/And lead me back home/See the shadows falling/But I ain’t got nowhere to go/They say that better days are coming/But they’re not saying when/Someday we’ll all be together again.” There is something hopeful in that, of course, but also something sad. And I wonder how certain he is of that statement. There is some anger in his delivery, as he tells us, “And as angry I am/I can’t stop thinking about them/May God have mercy on their souls/As he reaches down to take them.” So many people disappear from our lives. And no one knows if we’ll ever see them again. Then “Athens Smiles” has a pleasant, cheerful vibe and rhythm, and Ian Jones’ vocal approach changes to suit that feel. This track features some good work by Dave Palmer on piano. And don’t worry, there is still something of the road in this song, as Ian Jones delivers these lines: “Down the dark and lonesome highway/The emptiness stretched out for miles/She’d been driving fifteen hours/But nothing changed but the time/And she saw wild running horses/And rolling hills stretched out for miles.” That line about rolling hills reminds me of the maps and directions I would get from AAA on my lengthy road trips. There would be a description of the landscape on each page, and for page after page it would say “rolling hills.” This song also features some nice work on strings, with Paul Jacob Cartwright doing the arrangement.

“She Is Lost” then takes things down, and brings them in close, opening with some soft work on piano, giving us a sense of solitude. And he is in motion, the song’s first line being “Slowly now I wander off the road.” Partway through, the strings and rhythm come in. There is some pretty work on cello. Gabe Noel plays both bass and cello on this track. Fernando Apoclaca is on strings. “And sometimes I feel great/And other times feel like giving up/And then I figure out/I’ve got no place left to run to/And now that time has passed/I see the strength in going nowhere/I’m going nowhere fast.” Wow, this song builds in power, and in emotional impact. And in beauty. What a passionate delivery. “Again” also finds its characters in motion, but under different circumstances: “The sun went down and we never looked back/We ditched the body ‘neath the railroad tracks/Crossed the border and headed south/Where it was easier to fit in.” And there is a certain tension as he tells us, “I’m on the run again.”

There is another good rhythm in “Without You I’m Lost.” Interestingly, this one also begins by mentioning the sun, but while it was going down in the previous song, here it is shining, rising: “I’ve seen the sun shining/Climbing out of the deep blue sea/Watched it kiss that sweet mountaintop/That rises above those trees.” The sun seems to match the feel and groove of this song, and adding to that vibe is the presence of the horns. “Been working just to please you ‘til the day I die/I’ve done everything that a man can do/You think I’m joking, but baby, I’m not/And you know that without you I am lost.” I love Lee Thornburg’s work on trumpet. This is a lively number. It was written by Ian Jones and David Bickford. It’s interesting to follow a song titled “Without You I’m Lost” with a song titled “You’re Gone.” This one has a wonderfully sad country sound. “I’ll be up again tonight/I’ll be up again before the dawn/But you’ll be in someone else’s arms/Because you walked out on me/And now you’re gone.” I love that pedal steel. This track also features a really nice lead on guitar. That’s followed by “Have Mercy,” another wonderfully sad song, this one a waltz. “All alone at the end of the day/I was wondering what I did wrong trying to make you stay/Even got down on my knees/Still, you went away.” Ian Jones delivers a really nice vocal performance.

The album concludes with “Goodbyes Are The Hardest Words,” a beautiful and moving song. “Well, you think that we might have learned/From the choices we’ve had to take/And all those mistakes that we both made/And if heaven’s real/We’ll find the answers to questions we’ve had to make.” I hope there is something else after this life, though reason tells me there isn’t. But no one knows, and goodbyes wouldn’t be as difficult if we knew we’d be with our loved ones again. “So for now I’ll just say I love you/And I’ll see you in a little while.”

CD Track List

  1. Rollin’
  2. You Can’t
  3. Lost Highway
  4. Someday
  5. Athens Smiles
  6. She Is Lost
  7. Again
  8. Without You I’m Lost
  9. You’re Gone
  10. Have Mercy
  11. Goodbyes Are The Hardest Words

Results Not Typical is scheduled to be released on April 7, 2023.

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