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Billy Jonas Link:
- Billy Jonas
Life So Far
2000, Bang A Bucket Music
- It took me a while to hear about this artist but I am sure glad I did. This guy has cornered the market on a unique combination of socially and politically aware songwriting with a stunning sense of performance. Jonas is more funk than folk and his main instrument is the drum (and found-object percussion). He is also not afraid to have fun in the studio with sound effects. His spirit is childlike as he dances his way through the material, but if he is a child he must have been here before, because he is an absolute master of his medium. There does not seem to be a wasted motion, drumbeat, pun or sound effect. Its amazing how close to being over the top he is throughout the album without losing loosing traction.
Life So Far is a dazzling combination of insight and energy. Starting the album is One, a list song with a message, the kind of thing you may think you have heard before, but have a listen to this one. Jonas launches his list of contrasting human traits with wit, and an infectious drum beat. The word one is repeated scores of times, but in voices that sound like a cast of thousands. I have a lot of favorites on this album, but I really relate to Late. Its sung from a childs point of view:
Im gonna make you late
Im gonna do you a favor
Im gonna get you off your schedule
For the third day in a row
The Bus is a series of emotionally complicated stories told on a cross-country trip. This is the first song featuring Jonas on guitar, with the relative lack of frenetic arrangement standing in contrast to the hectic nature of the stories. Do you wonder at such tangential esoterica shared by strangers on the asphalt of America?
You probably never noticed how cool sounding the phrase coup detat is, but you will never hear it the same old way after hearing Jonas song of that name. Its a tour-de-force of Jonas style (hey Billy, does tour-de-force have any lyric possibilities?). God Is In could have careened off into didacticism but for the fact that it is approached (attacked?) with the same humor and musicality as the rest of his work. It is a triumph that should be on the curriculum wherever tolerance is taught.
Jonas shows himself to be a stellar talent on Life So Far. Although there are a lot of studio effects on this album, the real fireworks are in the performer. He must be incredible live and I am sure to get out to see him when his orbit grazes my area.Michael Devlin