Hailing originally from Vancouver, Miriam Jones is Oxford based singer-songwriter who ventured up north this past fortnight for a series of house gigs and concerts, including an intimate concert and conversation with the artist, in St Andrews, Scotland.
This was a concert with a difference: not only was the venue fitting to the music – the historic Holy Trinity Church – audience members had a chance to ask the artist, and her bassist Jez Carr, about her creative process. Talking in between songs, Jones managed to strike the delicate balance between honesty and oversharing. The artist shared the backstories behind tracks from her new album Fire Lives including “Helicopter” and the heart-rending “Bones” while answering questions about the way in which she writes music. Both songs were part of her 2010 Solitary Songs project – a project that yielded a song a month. It’s certainly one way to satiate fans on two continents.
In a pared back musical lineup – Jones brought only her bassist (and husband) Jez Carr with her on this trip to Scotland – there was little to interfere with her clean melodies. The range of time signatures and tunings meant that the audience was able to partake in quite a range of musical skill, though it can’t have been easy to be retuning as you’re trying to be vulnerable with an audience eager for more of the backstory. It shows that Jones has been doing more informal house gigs and smaller concerts of late. She is, as her bio declares, shmaltz-free.
There’s something about the depth and lyricism of her music which induces audiences to close their eyes and allow it to wash over them. This wasn’t music of the sleep-inducing kind, but rather the kind of lyrics that tug at your heart. During her song “Dust & Sand” this reviewer unexpectedly found herself with tears running down her cheeks. Jones’ lyrics have a raw power about them without being either sentimental or angsty. You see, herein is the rub and the intriguing thing about Jones: she is identifiably poppy – singing catching lyrics to catchier melodies – while touching nerves only the most profound and soulful music usually comes close to.
Soulful it is, but with a voice with a slight edge, Jones never falls into syrupy sweetness. Instead, her quirky lyrics make it completely possible to sing “Wondrous, Mysterious,” a Christmas song about the commercialism of the holiday season, in February immediately before the catchy “Fancy Free” with abandon. Other points in the set included “Come Clean,” “Ashes and Gold,” and “Words Away” which seemed to reflect an outpouring of Jones’ heart.
Jones is one of new breed of musicians asking questions about whether mainstream is the only way to go. Jones’ debut album, Sign & Semblance, intimate and simply produced, was followed 2 years later by Being Here, a folk/pop record produced in Nashville under Grammy award-winning, multi-format songwriter and record producer Charlie Peacock. Her new album “Fire Lives” is her third album, it is an album where she was able to call upon fans and supporters to go one step beyond merely consuming and appreciating her music and to become her patrons. This risk to stay independent has paid off for Jones, whose new album looks and sounds polished without taking away any of the raw intelligence of her lyrics and melodies.
You can listen to some of Miriam Jones’ music on her website.
Image: Miriam Jones