Glenn Jones is an instrumentalist of unparalleled skill and creativity. As a masterful raconteur Jones’ guitar work is both complex and sublime, intricate and emotional. His deep knowledge of the world of American Primitive music and his abilities on the fretboard have made Jones a pillar in his community. With each album Jones chronicles his experience, looking to the past or capturing the present with limber melodies that potently communicate the underlying emotions of the songs. Jones’ flair for storytelling shines in a live setting where origin stories are quite often the song’s introduction. It not only makes for an exceptional evening of listening, but one that draws on the deep traditions of country blues. The Giant Who Ate Himself and Other New Works for 6 & 12 String Guitar is Glenn Jones at his most vivid, exploring memories old and new through beautifully woven threads of melody.
Jones approaches his compositions first and foremost as concepts, emotions, and colors. Every step in his process of writing and recording is in service of creating a distinct character for each piece. His choice of guitars or banjos, tunings, often alternating through his custom partial capos, to choices in tempo and phrasing, even down the environment where he records all play a role. Together with recording engineer Laura Baird, he chooses a location, often a house with some meaning or an arresting view, and sets up the recording space customized for this set of songs. According to Jones, “To get that sense of place and time, you have to let the world into the recording.” Both Baird and Matthew Azevado, who mixed the album, have been Jones’ trusted collaborators for several years in both performance and on recording. “Laura doing what she does best allows me to do what I do best,” Jones says. “Matt helps me turn those performances into albums.” With their assistance, The Giant Who Ate Himself translates the complicated emotions behind the songs into music that is emotionally resonant to the listener.
The Giant Who Ate Himself, like his 2013 album My Garden State, was recorded in New Jersey, Jones’ home state through his formative years before moving permanently to Boston. The people whom Jones surrounded himself with too share a presence in the pieces throughout the album. “A Different Kind of Christmas Carol” took on an entirely new life for Jones after his curmudgeonly, Scrooge-like introduction to the song at a show in Pennsylvania was met with beaming enthusiasm from a child. The arching journey of “From Frederick To Fredericksburg” recounts a day Jones spent with old friend and collaborator the late Jack Rose while visiting renowned 78 collector Joe Bussard and their journey home late into the night. Sounds of the rural New Jersey outdoors of the recording studio even find their way onto the album with the sound collage piece “River In The Sky.” A piece is never truly finished for Jones unless he feels he’s exhausted their possibilities. The recordings on The Giant Who Ate Himself mark a moment in each of its pieces lives amidst their many variations Jones may assemble for them over the course of performing them. Consistent tinkering is emblematic of a searching that can be felt in his music. This very searching is what makes Jones such a vibrant composer and unique voice in the realm of solo guitar.
The Giant Who Ate Himself stands as a testament to Glenn Jones’ considerable powers to paint portraits with sound. The album’s title is itself is an homage for Jones’ mentor John Fahey, whose friendship with Jones spanned 25 years. By giving glimpses of the colorful personalities who have affected him, Jones’ The Giant Who Ate Himself in turn shows us who he is: a master of his craft, continuing to reach for more.