For those in the know, Diana Jones is up there with Gillian Welch in her ability to breathe life into the dusty world of Appalachian folk music, her writing and rich loamy voice drawing the listener in to a world of toil, heartache and tears. After a bit of a false start in the nineties Jones (an adopted child) discovered her metier after searching for her birth mother who it transpired came from east Tennessee. More importantly, she connected with her grandfather who was a musician and who inspired her interest in folk music culminating in the 2006 release of My Remembrance Of You, recorded following his death. On this and her following releases Jones was a revelation, her unhurried and laidback tales steeped in old time woes, her voice harking back to Maybelle Carter and Ginny Hawker. Her latest triumph was the 2013 release, Museum of Appalachia Recordings (read the Folk Radio UK Review / Interview here), which, as it says on the tin, was recorded in The Smithsonian Institute’s cabin museum in Tennessee, the result being songs which one reviewer described thus, “as old as the hills and as fresh as today’s milk.”
On the eve of a major European tour, Live In Concert offers an opportunity for folk to hear Jones in the wild accompanied only by Beau Stapleton who provides mandolin, tenor guitar and some harmony vocals alongside Jones’ guitar. Recorded over several tours (from 2007 until perhaps 2012) the album concentrates on songs from My Remembrance Of You and Better Times Will Come with only two songs from 2011’s High Atmosphere included. It’s a vibrant, up-close recording with no evidence of studio tinkering. The 18 songs crammed into an hour’s worth of listening capture the raw experience of sitting in a small venue, Jones’ intimate voice and occasional introductions captured well. Highlights include an excellent Drug For This, sung in response to an audience request, an acapella Cold Grey Ground and a haunting Appalachia but it’s the heartrending Henry Russell’s Last Words which hits hardest, one can imagine the audience transfixed as Jones delivers this lament. Of note for aficionados there are three unreleased songs included in the set although it’s a fair bet that they’ll buy the album anyway. For newcomers to Jones’ music this might not be the best introduction, a studio album might be more accessible, but it’s certain that this will be snapped up as a souvenir by those attending her forthcoming shows.
Review by: Paul Kerr
Released 19 Feb. 2016 via Proper Records
Diana Jones is touring the UK in April 2016. Click here for her tour dates and ticket links.