“By no means would I call this a pandemic record, but the songs did have their first incarnations during that time,” says the Bones Of J.R. Jones’ Jonathon Linaberry, trying to be honest while also downplaying what’s now become a music-industry cliché.
COVID or no, the native New Yorker does acknowledge that anxiety was the primary creative fuel for the urgent uphill grind of “Heaven Help Me” and other tracks on his upcoming LP, Slow Lightning, set for an October 13 release on Tone Tree Music. As he adjusted to a simpler, more-rooted existence in the Catskills after a number of years in Brooklyn and many days on the road, Linaberry turned inward.
“Truthfully, I was pretty frustrated with myself,” he says. “Now I can step away from it and get a bit of clarity. But in the moment, it felt very muddy.”
Where 2021’s A Celebration EP was driven by an infatuation with the wide-open spaces of the American West, Slow Lightning finds its inspiration in the dark corners of the mind. Things came into focus during the recording process, when he and co-producer Kiyoshi Matsuyama began to chart a new direction for a broodingly propulsive, blues-inflected formula initially inspired by the field recordings of Alan Lomax.
“I see ‘Heaven Help Me’ as this transition between the heavier stuff I was doing and where I see myself going creatively,” says Linaberry. “I feel like I’m leaning into more of a synth-inspired Americana thing.”
This was also the first time Linaberry had a recording budget to work with. “We rented a studio in Westchester, N.Y,” he says. “It had an apartment above it, and we hunkered to down and did all the live recordings in six days. As luck would have it, we actually got snowed in during the recording, which was kind of magical and fun.”
MAGNET is proud to premiere the Bones Of J.R. Jones’ “Heaven Help Me.”
—Hobart Rowland; photo by Chloe Horseman