The Commonwealth Room
Sat Apr 20, 2024

The Bones of J.R. Jones x Parker Millsap

Co-headline show


The Bones of J.R. Jones

“There was no ‘a-ha’ moment,” says Jonathon Linaberry, “no life-changing revelation, nosingular flash of inspiration. It was just a fierce, steady, undeniable energy, a force of nature Ihad to wrestle and wrangle with for years until I could harness it.”It’s easy to understand, then, why Linaberry—better known as The Bones Of J.R. Jones—wouldcall his mesmerizing new album Slow Lightning. As its title would suggest, the collection is rawand visceral, pulsating with an understated electrical current that flows just beneath itsseemingly placid surface. The songs are restless and unsettled here, often grappling with doubtand desire in the face of nature and fate, and frequent collaborator Kiyoshi Matsuyama’sproduction is eerily hypnotic to match, with haunting synthesizers, vintage drum machines, andghostly guitars fleshing out Linaberry’s already-cinematic brand of roots noir. The result is amoody, ominous work that’s equal parts Southern Gothic and transcendentalist meditation, aninstinctual slice of piercing self-reflection that hints at everything from Bruce Springsteen andBon Iver to James Murphy and J.J. Cale as it searches for meaning and purpose in a worldwithout easy answers.“I felt very lost at the time I was writing these songs,” Linaberry confesses. “It was a momentof deep crisis and anxiety, but I knew the only way out was through, which meant I just had tobring myself to the table every day and put in the work.”Linaberry’s no stranger to putting in the work. Born and raised in central New York, he got hisstart playing in hardcore and punk bands before becoming enamored with the field recordingsof Alan Lomax, who documented rural American blues, folk, and gospel musicians throughoutthe 1930s and ’40s. Inspired by the unvarnished honesty of those vintage performances,Linaberry launched The Bones of J.R. Jones in 2012 and, operating as a fully independent artistover the course of the ensuing decade, released three critically acclaimed albums along with atrio of similarly well received EPs; landed his songs in a slew of films and television seriesincluding Suits, Daredevil, Longmire, and Graceland; and toured the US and Europe countlesstimes over as a one-man-band, playing guitar or banjo while simultaneously stomping amodified drum kit everywhere from Telluride Blues to Savannah Stopover. Along the way,Linaberry also shared bills with the likes of The Wallflowers, G. Love, and The Devil MakesThree, soundtracked an Amazon commercial helmed by Oscar-winning director Taika Waititi,and earned praise from Billboard, American Songwriter, and Under the Radar, among others.

After living in constant motion for the better part of ten years, though, Linaberry found himselfat an unexpected standstill in 2021. At the time, he and his wife had recently relocated fromBrooklyn to an old farmhouse in the Catskills, and the change of pace was both rewarding andchallenging all at once.“It’s a pretty remote, rural area we moved to,” Linabery explains, “the kind of place wherespring is just a continuation of the cold, grey, muddy, brown of winter. I was exhausted by theseasons, working on songs nine hours a day in the attic, and it all felt very isolated and insular.”Where the most recent Bones of J.R. Jones release, 2021’s A Celebration, drew inspiration froma trip into the vast, desert expanses of the American southwest, the songs that began takingshape in upstate New York this time around were more difficult to pin down, seeming to comeand go of their own accord.“That’s where the notion of ‘slow lightning’ was born,” Linaberry explains. “It’s about a poweryou can’t control, a force that’s bigger than you and follows its own path no matter how badlyyou want to mold or direct it. That’s what this record felt like, and it’s something I had tofigure out how to embrace.”That kind of all-consuming power is palpable from the start on Slow Lightning, which beginswith the boisterous “Animals.” Gritty and insistent, the track taps into something primal anduninhibited, learning to trust its gut and make peace with aiming high and sometimes fallingshort. “Well my heart’s just trying to kill me,” Linaberry sings over roiling guitars and drums.“It always vibrates above / With always grand notions / But it plays in the mud.” Like so muchof the album, it’s a testament to resilience, to letting go of failure and pressing on even whenthings feel hopeless. The bittersweet title track explores tenacity in the face ofdisenchantment, while the lo-fi “Blue Skies” insists on reaching for hope regardless of the cost,and “The Flood” conjures up a wistful portrait of survival and loss as it builds from a dreamyblur into a searing crescendo.“I remember lying in bed in the dark hearing the coyotes laughing out in the field behind ourhouse just before they killed something,” Linaberry recalls. “It was so haunting and eerie, butat the same time, you’re just so totally in awe of what’s happening right outside your window,this elemental moment of life and death all wrapped up together.”Despite the looming sense of danger that permeates the album, Slow Lightning still manages tofind moments of humor and levity. The darkly romantic “I’ll See You In Hell” revels in a love sostrong it carries on through eternal damnation; the sardonic “I Ain’t Through With You” getshigh on an addictively toxic relationship; and the relentlessly taut “Heaven Help Me” surrendersto overwhelming infatuation, with Linaberry recalling, “Love is the kind of thing that will keepyou warm / That's what she said / As she was burning down my home.”In the end, though, it’s perhaps the breezy “Salt Sour Sweet” that best encapsulates the spiritof the record, with Linaberry looking back on a lifetime of love and heartbreak, dreams anddisappointment, success and failure, and ultimately recognizing that it’s the grand sum of themall that make us who we are. “It’s the salt sour and sweet / That holds,” he sings in an airyfalsetto. Call it maturity, call it self-awareness; it’s the kind of wisdom that can only arrive ona bolt of Slow Lightning.


638 South State Street
Salt Lake City, Utah 84111



195 West 2100 South
South Salt Lake, Utah 84115




Tickets online at
In person at Graywhale
Box office open show nights

AXS Sign-In   Stay Up to Date