New Music Friday: The Bones of J.R. Jones went from playing upstate punk to Greenpoint blues

Jonathon Linaberry, otherwise known as The Bones of J.R. Jones. Photograph by AJ Mason.

Jonathon Linaberry, otherwise known as The Bones of J.R. Jones. Photo by AJ Mason.

Jonathon Linaberry is a complicated man. Otherwise known as The Bones of J.R. Jones, he began in the hardcore punk scene of upstate New York and morphed into a bluesy, rootsy one-man-band project that, according to Noisey, “can hold an audience rapt, rendering the cacophony of a stage full of musicians utterly unnecessary.” His sophomore album, Spirit’s Furnaceis out today.

Though he started, as so many of us do, playing punk with a bunch of teenage friends in somebody’s basement, Linaberry later evolved into the “one man band” project that The Bones of J.R. Jones is today. During grad school at New Paltz, Linaberry found himself without a lot of musician friends — but he still needed to play music. Somewhere along the way, he got hold of a guitar and a banjo and began making all the noise he needed to.

“This is going to sound cheesy, but it’s a release,” he said. “Music is therapy. Without it, I’d probably go stir crazy.”

As a kid, Linaberry began, as so many of us do, taking piano lessons at his mother’s behest.

“I grew up in a very musical family, my mother and her family were all very musical,” he said. “Growing up, my brothers and I were required to take piano lessons from age 6 to 14. When we reached an age my mother decided was appropriate, we could decide to continue with piano, or move on. As most 14 year old kids, when given the choice to stop doing something, I naturally chose to. But if I continued with the piano, I think I’d be a much stronger musician now.”

If he had continued studying piano, at least classically, though, I feel like Linaberry may not have found the raw, soulful sound that permeates his music these days. It’s heavily influenced by old-school blues musicians like Blind Lemon Jefferson, who were not exactly classically trained themselves — and that’s what appealed to Linaberry. He discovered the blues as a teenager after several years of playing and participating in the hardcore punk scene of upstate New York, close to Syracuse.

“I think that part of the reason I liked playing punk was the sheer passion involved. We were a bunch of sweaty, angsty kids with a ton of feelings, and we didn’t really know what we were doing, but the music that happened was just pure emotion. I realize now that that’s the biggest thing I took away from that. A few years later, I heard Blind Lemon Jefferson for the first time, and I didn’t see it then, but what I loved about his performances was the same thing. What I love most about the blues, especially blues from the 1930s/40s, is that the music was so raw. The players didn’t really have any gifts as far as guitar playing, but it’s just pure emotion being expressed.”

 

He just finished up a tour with G Love, who, apparently, still has a special sauce (aka a backing band). Linaberry, it seems, doesn’t need much outside special sauce to create his own music — he creates his own.

Linaberry apparently never stops writing songs, even for his own honeymoon. He and his lovely wife now live in Greenpoint. When you can, please listen to “Wedding Song,” which he wrote days before his own nuptials. It’s sweet and complicated and tender and hard, just like love. Also just like my cat.

Though he doesn’t play in Greenpoint very often, Linaberry says his favorite local spot is Troost. I think that’s pretty cool, since I actually just played there — I write my own music, though I think I’m probably better at writing about other people’s music. Anyway. Troost is very sweet and neighborhoody, and when I was there, the bartender was basically the coolest. Linaberry says his wife just walked by there and found a great live show by Gotham City Pickers.

Outside of his immediate neighborhood, Linaberry says he loves to play at Pete’s Candy Store, and was a huge fan of the now defunct Brooklyn Rod & Gun Club. Though he’s never actually made it out to Jalopy Theatre and School of Music, which is a place you should absolutely go if you find yourself in Red Hook, he’s sharing the stage at Mercury Lounge tonight ($10 in advance, $12 at the door) with Jalopy staple Feral Foster. You should probably definitely go to that.

Lilly Vanek writes about music for Brokelyn. For more about local music and musings on special sauces, follow her on Twitter. And to pitch Lilly for New Music Friday, please email lilly [at] brokelyn [dot] com.