Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Jiggley Jones - A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light
Jiggley Jones presents his debut album from Lamon Records, A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light.
While this may be the first proper release from Jiggley Jones by his label, this musician brings many years of experience in his playing, songwriting and lyricism that make you feel like this "debut" has been long overdue. With Dave Moody, president of Lamon Records and a grammy nominated artist producing the record, you can hear the high production value that you might expect from a Nashville-based label. The instrumentation on this album prominently features Jiggley's acoustic guitar accompanied by a simple trio of piano, bass and drums on each song. Occasionally we get added accents like affected electric guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro (or lap steel), orchestral string arrangements and upright bass. While it's obvious that Jiggley has the guitar chops to stand alone here, and I have to imagine he often gigs as a solo singer/songwriter, the added players on this album really bring Jiggley's compositions to life in a wholly different way.
For comparison, you can hear the highlight track from A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light, "Walk On Me," as a solo performance in the YouTube video embedded below.
"Walk On Me" Solo Acoustic performance by Jiggle Jones during CMA Festival 2014:
Then you can listen to the studio version on the official music video here.
"Walk On Me" Official Music Video:
For me, the solo acoustic version carries a bit more visceral emotion when you hear Jiggley carrying the tune alone, but the studio arrangement for "Walk on Me" really highlights the talent that Dave Moody brings to the table. The resources of such an amazing music city like Nashville are not lost on the production values put to use on this album. The additions to the tracks seem simple until you really break them apart and hear how many different pieces were added. I could easily called it that "Nashville sound," but the producer's touch is much more subtle here. I would have to imagine some great A-list musicians were brought in for the sessions on these tracks, but I think that may only occur to the analytic ear. For the passive listener, the instrumentation and the arrangements are designed in a way that let Jiggley's songwriting and his voice breath throughout each song.
"Walk on Me" is the breakout song on the release, but there is still so much more to offer on A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light. While "Walk On Me" is a darker song with deeper narrative, the rest of the album brings touches of jazz and rock within Jiggley's americana sound and more light-hearted narratives.
"Look What I Found" shifts the album into a jazzy, meandering composition about luck and love. As love songs or ballads can go, I'm glad to hear a track without the cheese. This composition feels real as Jiggley expresses how love sometimes just finds you in the least expected places. This narrative resonates with me, because so many times in life we don't have that perfect love story. We find our other half by living life and then, out of nowhere, there they are. The Wurlitzer-sounding electric piano in lieu of traditional acoustic piano gives this song a different feel than much of the album and feels more comfortable in that "jazzy" category.
"Hope In a Bottle" takes the album in a nearly evangelical direction. While the message is uplifting and and spiritual, it fringes on sounding like a religious song. Maybe I misinterpret the narrative, but lyrics like "praise the lord" and "open up your heart now and pray" just strike me as something I would hear at a progressive Sunday service. I don't mean to take a stance against that type of music, but the rest of the album strikes me more deeply than the lyrical content of this song. Unfortunately, after a few listens, I have to pretty much just gloss over this song.
Track four is similar in tone and narrative as the last song, but it strikes me as more genuine. Jiggley sings about how there is "Nothing So Natural" as the love of a parent for their child. This narrative of love sends a similar message in hopefulness and optimism that "Hope In a Bottle" tries to transmit, but somehow it works better. I think it's simply Jiggley's choice of verbiage that feels more natural (no pun intended... well kinda intended).
"Early Morning Light" surprised me by how easily the chorus became stuck in my head. Even days after listening, I found myself humming the melody of "Early Morning Light." This track is mellow and unassuming at first, but I think that is part of it's strength as a composition. The simple instrumentation of acoustic guitar, piano, and upright bass give this track a lot of breathing room. I feel the space within this recording is it's greatest strength. Jiggley's voice is allowed to shine with just the most subtle accents and accompaniment. The effect is resonant and it sticks with you long after you listen.
The final track, "Man on the Run" gives us our largest dose of rock within the americana palette that Jiggley champions on this release. This song creates a good deal of momentum within the overall landscape of the album and leaves you wanting more. This is one of the only tracks on the album that carries a solid backbeat throughout and feels like it could be played with a much heavier tone than is recorded here, but it still fits within Jiggley's overall sound. If the album were any longer, this would be a great launching point into some more traditional rock songs or jam-worthy compositions. But, in the end, it's also a great point to leave the listener hanging. With the bookend of "Man on the Run," the album feels like a real progression. And once it's done, you kinda just want to hear some more Jiggley songs.
As a "debut," A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light is a nice little porthole into the world of Jiggley Jones. The album gives us a very professionally framed serving of the years of experience that Jiggley brings to the songwriting table. While most of the compositions are thoughtful and very well played, the biggest miss on this album is the lack of composed endings for these songs. Nearly every song carries out through the verse or chorus to a nice little fizzle. The musicians hold out a chord or Jiggley lets the last note of the melody carry over into silence at the end of almost every song. As a whole, this may be the only downside of this album: the lack of a clincher. We're always left wanting a little more. But, maybe this is a good thing, because if Jigglely's past is any indicator, there is surely much more to come.
You can find Jiggley Jones - A Mountain, A Struggle, A Tunnel, A Light on iTunes.