The American songwriter Laney Jones is a native Floridian but five years ago swapped the Sunshine State for Nashville, Tennessee and her time living in Music City coincides with the gestation period of her fourth studio album, Stories Up High. Mostly recorded at Nashville’s Bomb Shelter Studio with Andrija Tokic at the production helm – a man who has previously worked with Alabama Shakes, Langhorne Slim, and Hurray for the Riff Raff – the eleven songs that comprise Stories Up High cover a lot of musical ground as they embrace indie rock, country, folk, and pop, with some delightful shades of southern soul and ’60s R&B found in between. The record possesses an ageless quality, a feeling that is reinforced by the variety of vintage instruments that Laney Jones plays on the record, including a Wurlitzer electric keyboard, banjo, ukulele, and her treasured Gibson LG-2 and Silvertone guitars which date from 1945 and 1964 respectively, and the fact that it was all recorded to tape.
For all its creative immersion in the past, though, Stories Up High is informed by some of the significant issues and concerns that many of us face today. With the writing and recording process for Stories Up High beginning before, and then continuing beyond the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, these are songs which capture not only a time of great turbulence for the world in general but also Laney Jones in particular. She has spoken openly about her susceptibility to feelings of depression and past struggles with her emotional well-being and there are undoubtedly threads of melancholy woven through the fabric of Stories Up High. But equally the album evinces a strong resolve on her part, a quiet determination to re-evaluate herself and evolve.
This sense of moving forward is no more pronounced than on ‘Not Alone’. Here Laney Jones acknowledges past difficulties but as the song reaches its rousing conclusion, and in a voice that is bold and true she proclaims “You’re not alone. I’m not alone. We’re not alone.” It is a powerful sentiment, espousing a firm belief in the value of togetherness and a mutual understanding of shared experiences.
The music on Stories Up High feels and sounds like something that is altogether far more serious for Laney Jones and much stronger than perhaps had hitherto been the case. Her songwriting is now coming from a place of increased confidence, and this is no more evident than on the immense ballad ‘Secret Weapon’ and the album’s penultimate track ‘Rocket To Mars’ which comes to us dripping in gentle psychedelia and fuelled by a strong cosmic vibe.
Stories Up High is released on 20th May 2022 through AHPO Records
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