Tuesday 22 July 2014

To the Bone

To the Bone - Jones

Regular readers will be aware of Mr Trevor Jones, who often stops by to comment and who, both as a solo artist and as part of Miracle Mile, has been producing excellent work since the eighties. Despite many critical plaudits and a small band of fanatics, this music has still to find its way to a wider audience. You can find my review of Miracle Mile's last album, In Cassidy's Care here.

His songs are carefully considered, mature reflections on the passing of time; friendship and its passing; disappointment; relationships; becoming and/or retreating from the self etc. The stuff of the considered life. My plan here (if you can call it a plan) is to listen to the album and respond track by track, somewhat fancifully imagining the album as a narrative and concentrating more on the lyrics than the music.

In the first song Phil the Hat Trevor paints a picture of youthful friendship of "Phil the Hat and TJ" in nostalgic tones, . All that now remains is a candid shot of the two together and the kind of memories ("that lazy shuffle / Every time you heard a Dylan tune") that we carry to the grave. It is both an elegy and a celebration.

There are times when T.J. sounds fragile, almost bewildered by the speed at which life is sifting through his hands. It is like being privy to an intimate confession. Although this was what struck me on first listen it is the courage, the resilience and the humour which takes the foreground having lived with the album for a while. Indeed there is a certain stately and steadfast resilience on show.

Dream Horses, the next song, deals with dreams and songwriting and love, with the singer responding to his lover's question; "can it be a happy song?" by making love the core of the chorus. But we are left hearing the hooves of his nightmares and their "feral scent".

Pardon Me continues the conversation that is always stretching these songs. There is always a sense that these songs arise from a shared life, and the tension, almost guilt, that can arise when melancholy drifts between people.
"Pardon me for this intrusion / I know that it’s late in your night
But I’m stumbling into confusion / Something ‘round here isn’t right"

This tension between the songs and their place in the world is striking, the late night uncertainty, the sense that life is a compromise.. These are not songs arrested in a permanent adolescence. But neither are they pre-digested easy listening. There is an edgy tension and a melancholy wash.

Some Kind of Surrender would sit easily on The Grand Old Opry with  the surrender being to silence, to accepting a small defeat, that love may not be the same as truth, at least while gathering the strength to try again.

Books to Bed: Books in bed can be a form of defence but they can be set aside. Other people have secrets between the covers, too, and maybe they need to be read.  "I’ll show you my truth / If you can show me yours". There, across the bare mattress of no man's land, "we can just make love".

In Man Behind the Moon the singer imagines being left behind but also imagines casting a spell. Nothing is certain in this world. A short(1.30) slight seeming, yet subtly mysterious song that reminds us that gravity pulls the tides low and high.

The object of desire is also pulling away in Angelicana: "you crave dusty roads". There are some lines that have really wormed their way into my mind on this, like : "Wishing to be wild I know that I’m defined / By borderlines of boyhood that map my manly mind" What is it to be free, to let loose? There is an almost rhapsodic repetition of the name Angelicana which suggests a letting go and a celebration.

Cabin Fever opens with some spoken words, something that was more evident on Jones' earlier solo albums. It also draws (I know because I read it on his blog) on a line of Raymond Carvers; "send a letter or a woman". Carver unsuccessfully tried to use a friend's cabin as a writing retreat. The heart of the song is "an unravelling" not of the singer but of a knot; an epiphany, a sense that life is not for wasting. Perhaps you need to be comfortable alone to be comfortable together?

The Fullness of Time imagines everything transmuted into memories, and somehow muted as well: "Why no fireworks? / No loving the living?
Why no explosions? / Why no thanksgiving?"

This is followed by a retort, Fireworks, one of the album's strongest tracks, and strongly positive, a waltz of desires, where taking a beating just means starting again
"Though I can’t contain starlight or lasso the moon / There’s fire in my pocket; delight coming soon
Punch drunk and giddy I lead with my chin / I’m done with defeat; let the victories begin"

Glimpsed and Gone, a brief instrumental, drifts down like the burnt ash of the  fireworks, restful and full of beauty.

To The Bone, with it's chorus like a pirate drinking song, seems to be sung in concert with a choir of ghosts. The ghosts of Trevor future and past harmonising with Trevor now.

In Somewhere North of Here the singer could be a lover or a messiah, the second pair of footsteps in the sand:
" I will walk beside you / And you will know I’m there
And I will touch you gently / To comfort your despair"

The final song Row once again finds the lyrics taking to sea, which is clearly of great importance to Trevor. It is a plaintive song, asking that his girl "row the boat / Gently back to me". Lets have some space, but not between us. There is a fear that songwriting can consume life: "What started out as a letter / Always ends up in a song." Could songs end up consuming the very life they celebrate.

This intimate album will leave you feeling that there is very little space between you and the singer and his gently strummed melodies and whispered confessions of fears and hopes have insinuated themselves into my life. You should let them into yours.

To buy the album click here.


  1. Thank you Seamus for taking the time to listen so intently and intensely. I think that most 'artists' take themselves seriously enough to want to be taken seriously. The music world can appear a transient folly; it's humbling and a real boon when folk immerse themselves in one's songs. I love that connection; the music breathes a different air and yet, the song has found a home. Humbled too by your revelation that the songs on this album have 'insinuated themselves' into your life. I know that the bar is set high in your home so, that's praise indeed.

    1. You're more than welcome Trevor, and congratulations on the album. I hope it finds its audience somehow..

  2. Just back from a fabulous weekend at WOMAD. Thought of you when I sat listening to Iarla O Lionaird in conversation and singing. He was charming, funny and sang up a dream or two...

    1. That takes me back - it must be twenty plus years since I last saw Iarla sing with the great Nine Wassies from Bainne - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKI0SiOXWa8&list=PLCF61AD14C2A25F50. Oh the years, the years...