She is called the "new" Emily Dickinson drawn from her poignant lyrics, often dealing with the similar subjects of love, sorrow, and loss associated with the 19th century poet. However, the common refrain heard about Dickinson's poems was that you could sing the words to the music of "Amazing Grace," The Yellow Rose of Texas," or the theme song from Gilligan's Island. Here the distinction should be made that, hallowed be those songs in different musical contexts, the poetry of Diana Jones is markedly different. Although it may draw some essence from the first two examples and occasionally follow Dickinson's common metre, it has the added depth of her impassioned vocals, stamping the very personal songs as her own. Add to that, the fact that she also is a very adept and tasteful guitarist and maybe the honorable comparison diminishes a little more.

Her style touches upon what is now called "old time music" but categorically she would fall under the big umbrella of the folk music label with "old" or "traditional" country being another likely grouping. There is a distinct hint of Appalachia in the singing voice which probably seeped in from a rediscovered connection with family in the hills of Eastern Tennessee. In addition, she has spent periods of time discovering the style and direction of her voice, influenced by spells in Austin and the northeast. A "hillbilly feminist" tag although accurate at times in describing her songwriting stance, doesn't allow for a vocal range that can showcase songs as diverse as jazz/blues standards Bye, Bye Blackbird or Trouble in Mind. She can switch gears and follow those chestnuts with a simple heartfelt song dedicated to a dear pet called Angel Pie. Or come down from the mountain with the likes of Cold Grey Ground.

Often attempted but rarely perfected and mostly lost in the great landscape that is American folk music is the purity of a plaintive voice singing so soulfully that it seems to wring out every memory in the head and heart. If the writing holds up, then the song, too, can take hold of one's psyche, leading you into that performer's journal and journey. Yes, there are a thousand coffeehouses where many a troubadour tells the tales, reciting the lyrics of his or her experiences. Diana Jones' songs are rendered likewise, but she can sing them so smoothly, as if stirring your soul was as easy as stirring your coffee. There's almost no dilution of this purity as the voice and carefully crafted song stays above the discriminating guitar accompaniment. Performing live, she can carry the material with or without additional embellishment, but her 2006 recording My Remembrance of You (NewSong Recordings) features additional musicians Jay Ungar on fiddle, Duke Levine on mandolin, guitars; and others. They weave around her voice, never interfering, leaving the work undiminished and almost as good as seeing her sing it live.

The Chicago Tribune picked My Remembrance of You  as their number one "country" record of 2006 over Willie, Vince and all the urban cowboys and cowgirls. Her music though is more rootsy and rural, mountain-tinged and, most of all, more poetically intelligent then the plethora of country schmaltz and jingoist anthems that are out there. This might be why she also picked up last year's Kerrville New Folk Contest songwriting award.

Diana Jones will be back on the west coast later this summer. In February of this year, she had been driving herself up and down the state with a guitar and a box of CDs in her trunk, a prelude to an upcoming European tour.  At a recent concert, she spoke of wanting to just be "famous enough to have a guitar tech". Diana Jones is already mentioned in the same breath as Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, and Iris DeMent, and it's a good bet that she will have that assistant sooner rather than later.

www.dianajonesmusic.com


Joel Okida is a struggling artist, struggling writer, and struggling musician. It occurs to him that life is all about the struggle. Fortunately, he did not take up acting. However, he's not half-bad as a zydeco dancer and the ability to make a mean gumbo and lovely walnut tortes has gotten him by.