When Jonathon Robert Linaberry needs a break from city life, he goes Upstate, near the Catskills, to renovate a little farmhouse he purchased a couple of years back. As he pours himself into his work, J.R. doesn’t think about texts, email, or even his music, which he performs solo under the moniker The Bones Of J.R. Jones. His only focus is the house.
In a sense, recording and touring as The Bones Of J.R. Jones is its own form of isolation. But you wouldn’t immediately think so: As a one-man band, J.R.’s project, which fuses a moody blend of soul, blues, roots, and Americana, sounds enormous both on record and live in concert. That’s because J.R. plays—and has grown accustomed to playing—every instrument by himself.
He’s happy to report, though, that he’s a lot less solitary on his third full-length album, Ones To Keep Close. In addition to workshopping the 11-track album with producer and good friend Rob Niederpruem at Hyperballad Music in Brooklyn, J.R. also called on soul-psych luminary Nicole Atkins, who guests on the album’s jangly lead single, “Burden.”
J.R. even gathered more bodies in the studio itself, hiring musicians with whom to record and bounce ideas off of. On the gritty “I See You,” J.R. worked with his session percussionist to pick up the pace from a slower, “swampier” drawl to an 180 BPM “swagger.”
Even as insulating as solo musicianship can be, J.R. finds comfort in reflecting on how much The Bones Of J.R. Jones has grown in the last year. The project is like that house in the Catskills—constantly evolving. In addition to recording with Niederpruem and a backing band, this album marked the first time J.R. felt able to adequately flesh out his ideas in the studio without feeling rushed.
The result is a crisp, expertly produced collection of stomp-along songs that evoke a vivid spectrum of feeling: pain, fear, excitement, joy, longing, regret.