When Jonathon Robert Linaberry needs a break from New York city life, he goes upstate, near the Catskills, to renovate a little farmhouse he purchased a couple of years back. As he pours himself into his work, J.R. doesn’t think about texts, email, or even his music, which he performs solo under the moniker The Bones Of J.R. Jones. His only focus is the house.
“That’s been an amazing emotional outlet for me,” he says of his periodic retreats. “To kind of sustain myself after coming from the road and getting back into the grind of the city, to have this, for lack of a better term, Shangri-La.” In a sense, recording and touring as The Bones Of J.R. Jones is its own form of isolation. But you wouldn’t immediately think so: As a one-man band, J.R.’s project, which fuses a moody blend of soul, blues, roots, and Americana, sounds enormous both on record and live in concert. That’s because J.R. plays—and has grown accustomed to playing—every instrument by himself.
He’s happy to report, though, that he’s a lot less solitary on his third full-length album, Ones To Keep Close. In addition to workshopping the 11-track album with producer and good friend Rob Niederpruem at Hyperballad Music in Brooklyn, J.R. also called on soul-psych luminary Nicole Atkins, who guests on the album’s jangly lead single, “Burden.” Even as insulating as solo musicianship can be, J.R. finds comfort in reflecting on how much The Bones Of J.R. Jones has grown in the last year. The project is like that house in the Catskills—constantly evolving. In addition to recording with Niederpruem and a backing band, this album marked the first time J.R. felt able to adequately flesh out his ideas in the studio without feeling rushed.
“Every time I’d gone into the studio prior to [this record], it’d be like, ‘Okay, we have five days… this is what it’s costing for five days… let’s just bang out whatever nuggets of ideas we had, and that’s the album—good or bad, no cohesiveness, no common thread,” J.R. says. “This was the first time I was able to be a little more thoughtful and slow it down a touch, and write songs for that moment and bring them into the studio and develop them.” The result is a crisp, expertly produced collection of stomp-along songs that evoke a vivid spectrum of feeling: pain, fear, excitement, joy, longing, regret.