Diana Jones

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Diana Jones combines traditional mountain and old-time sounds with a literate, character-driven brand of storytelling on her new album, 'Better Times Will Come,' (May 19th, Proper American). If the reaction of her fellow songwriters is any indication, she's produced something of a masterpiece. Two of the songs from her new record have been covered by some of the nation's most recognizable folk artists; Joan Baez covered “Henry Russell's Last Words” on her Grammy-nominated album 'Day After Tomorrow', while Gretchen Peters has recorded “If I Had a Gun". Notable names lending a hand on ... Read more

Diana Jones combines traditional mountain and old-time sounds with a literate, character-driven brand of storytelling on her new album, 'Better Times Will Come,' (May 19th, Proper American). If the reaction of her fellow songwriters is any indication, she's produced something of a masterpiece. Two of the songs from her new record have been covered by some of the nation's most recognizable folk artists; Joan Baez covered “Henry Russell's Last Words” on her Grammy-nominated album 'Day After Tomorrow', while Gretchen Peters has recorded “If I Had a Gun". Notable names lending a hand on 'Better Times Will Come' include Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith and Betty Elders, The Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, and more.

'Better Times Will Come' uses deceptively simple lyrics which tell their stories with the hypnotic repetition and plain speech of old mountain song. Pay closer attention, though, and you’ll hear a modern literary voice working with irony and implication. Listen, for example, to how skillfully Diana uses the subjunctive mood on her version of “If I Had a Gun," the conditional threat of a mistreated woman. Listen to how subtly Diana marks the passage of time in “Henry Russell’s Last Words," based on a real letter written by a dying miner. Hear how true love and undeniable defects can coexist on “Cracked and Broken." The lyrics are not strictly autobiographical, but they echo Diana’s own experiences.

“There are only so many songs I can write from my own particular story," she concedes. “I’m constantly interested in other people's stories anyway. Anyone who wants to be my friend all they have to do is tell me a story. It’s an interesting thing for me to approach my own internal landscape through other people's stories—I ask myself, ‘How would I write about that and be truly honest?’ It gives me a way to express my emotions in a bigger way, a more interesting way.”

She approaches her own background, for example, by telling the stories of other adopted children. “All God's Children," from the new album, is the story of an 18-year-old kid, on his own in a friendless world after a lifetime of foster homes. “Pony," from the previous album, is the story of a young Dakota Indian girl taken away from her parents in 1924. The latter was nominated as Song of the Year by the Folk Alliance.

“I was adopted,” she says simply. “I knew I was adopted, because my parents adopted my brother when I was two and a half. Thinking like a two year old, I thought that was how everyone got a baby. Later on, I learned it was more complicated than that, and I grew up wondering where I came from, what my other family was like.

After leaving home at 15 and eventually finding her way to an undergraduate program at Sarah Lawrence College, Diana set about trying to find her birth family. Finding them in Tennessee through a combination of old-fashioned detective work and dream interpretation, Diana was overwhelmed "The first week after I found them I was in shock almost. Everyone was very sweet. I talked to my grandparents and my aunts. I got pictures. I had never seen people who looked like me, who sounded like me, so that was pretty amazing. We made plans to get together in Tennessee, and my mom flew over from England.”

It was as if, having learned she was from Tennessee, she could finally make sense of her formerly mystifying musical impulses. As a youngster she had always perked up whenever she heard a Johnny Cash or Emmylou Harris record but such opportunities were few in the Northeast and she didn’t connect them to the broader field of country music.

She threw herself into music. She went busking through continental Europe, moved to New York and joined an alt-country band. She soon realized that she didn’t want to sing someone else's songs, so she moved to Austin, where original songs are honored as nowhere else. She played the open mics and coffeehouses and eventually recorded two albums: 1996's "Imagine Me” and 1998's "The One That Got Away."

At the beginning of 2007, more than 10 years after her first album, she was nominated as Best Emerging Artist at the Folk Alliance Awards. The nomination was entirely appropriate, for she had, without warning, emerged as a new kind of artist with a new kind of song. That recognition led to the tours with Richard Thompson and Mary Gauthier, to the recordings of her songs by Joan Baez and Gretchen Peters, to the appearances at folk festivals on both sides of the Atlantic and to her powerful new album, 'Better Times Will Come.'

This is what makes Diana Jones such an important new songwriting voice. She is able to take the facts of other people’s lives—or of her own—and distill them into the fine whiskey of feeling. The facts are still there—they provide the vivid details that allow us to imagine ourselves inside a collapsed mine shaft next to Henry Russell or in the dorm of an American Indian boarding school or in the Appalachian bus depot where a “Soldier Girl," with a green duffel bag over her shoulder, prepares to leave for boot camp. But the focus is always on the characters’ immense longing—of Henry for his wife, of the young Indian student for her father, of the new soldier for the lover left behind—the kind of longing we listeners can recognize, even if we’ve never been in a mine, an Indian school or a boot camp.

That feeling is there in Diana’s concise, economical words, yes, but it's also in her hymn-like melodies, so simple and so sturdy, and in the keening sound of her drawling alto. Two years of hard touring since her last album have honed those skills. On this album, which includes her own version of “Henry Russell's Last Words," plus “Soldier Girl,” “Cracked and Broken” (an inspiring tribute to damaged survivors), and “If I Had a Gun” (the chilling promise of an abused wife’s vengeance), the distillation process is more thorough than ever and the liquor of emotion that much more potent.

--Geoffrey Himes
(Geoffrey Himes writes about music for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Oxford American, Sing Out, Paste and others.)

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Diana Jones combines traditional mountain and old-time sounds with a literate, character-driven brand of storytelling on her new album, 'Better Times Will Come,' (May 19th, Proper American). If the reaction of her fellow songwriters is any indication, she's produced something of a masterpiece. Two of the songs from her new record have been covered by some of the nation's most recognizable folk artists; Joan Baez covered “Henry Russell's Last Words” on her Grammy-nominated album 'Day After Tomorrow', while Gretchen Peters has recorded “If I Had a Gun". Notable names lending a hand on 'Better Times Will Come' include Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith and Betty Elders, The Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, and more.

'Better Times Will Come' uses deceptively simple lyrics which tell their stories with the hypnotic repetition and plain speech of old mountain song. Pay closer attention, though, and you’ll hear a modern literary voice working with irony and implication. Listen, for example, to how skillfully Diana uses the subjunctive mood on her version of “If I Had a Gun," the conditional threat of a mistreated woman. Listen to how subtly Diana marks the passage of time in “Henry Russell’s Last Words," based on a real letter written by a dying miner. Hear how true love and undeniable defects can coexist on “Cracked and Broken." The lyrics are not strictly autobiographical, but they echo Diana’s own experiences.

“There are only so many songs I can write from my own particular story," she concedes. “I’m constantly interested in other people's stories anyway. Anyone who wants to be my friend all they have to do is tell me a story. It’s an interesting thing for me to approach my own internal landscape through other people's stories—I ask myself, ‘How would I write about that and be truly honest?’ It gives me a way to express my emotions in a bigger way, a more interesting way.”

She approaches her own background, for example, by telling the stories of other adopted children. “All God's Children," from the new album, is the story of an 18-year-old kid, on his own in a friendless world after a lifetime of foster homes. “Pony," from the previous album, is the story of a young Dakota Indian girl taken away from her parents in 1924. The latter was nominated as Song of the Year by the Folk Alliance.

“I was adopted,” she says simply. “I knew I was adopted, because my parents adopted my brother when I was two and a half. Thinking like a two year old, I thought that was how everyone got a baby. Later on, I learned it was more complicated than that, and I grew up wondering where I came from, what my other family was like.

After leaving home at 15 and eventually finding her way to an undergraduate program at Sarah Lawrence College, Diana set about trying to find her birth family. Finding them in Tennessee through a combination of old-fashioned detective work and dream interpretation, Diana was overwhelmed "The first week after I found them I was in shock almost. Everyone was very sweet. I talked to my grandparents and my aunts. I got pictures. I had never seen people who looked like me, who sounded like me, so that was pretty amazing. We made plans to get together in Tennessee, and my mom flew over from England.”

It was as if, having learned she was from Tennessee, she could finally make sense of her formerly mystifying musical impulses. As a youngster she had always perked up whenever she heard a Johnny Cash or Emmylou Harris record but such opportunities were few in the Northeast and she didn’t connect them to the broader field of country music.

She threw herself into music. She went busking through continental Europe, moved to New York and joined an alt-country band. She soon realized that she didn’t want to sing someone else's songs, so she moved to Austin, where original songs are honored as nowhere else. She played the open mics and coffeehouses and eventually recorded two albums: 1996's "Imagine Me” and 1998's "The One That Got Away."

At the beginning of 2007, more than 10 years after her first album, she was nominated as Best Emerging Artist at the Folk Alliance Awards. The nomination was entirely appropriate, for she had, without warning, emerged as a new kind of artist with a new kind of song. That recognition led to the tours with Richard Thompson and Mary Gauthier, to the recordings of her songs by Joan Baez and Gretchen Peters, to the appearances at folk festivals on both sides of the Atlantic and to her powerful new album, 'Better Times Will Come.'

This is what makes Diana Jones such an important new songwriting voice. She is able to take the facts of other people’s lives—or of her own—and distill them into the fine whiskey of feeling. The facts are still there—they provide the vivid details that allow us to imagine ourselves inside a collapsed mine shaft next to Henry Russell or in the dorm of an American Indian boarding school or in the Appalachian bus depot where a “Soldier Girl," with a green duffel bag over her shoulder, prepares to leave for boot camp. But the focus is always on the characters’ immense longing—of Henry for his wife, of the young Indian student for her father, of the new soldier for the lover left behind—the kind of longing we listeners can recognize, even if we’ve never been in a mine, an Indian school or a boot camp.

That feeling is there in Diana’s concise, economical words, yes, but it's also in her hymn-like melodies, so simple and so sturdy, and in the keening sound of her drawling alto. Two years of hard touring since her last album have honed those skills. On this album, which includes her own version of “Henry Russell's Last Words," plus “Soldier Girl,” “Cracked and Broken” (an inspiring tribute to damaged survivors), and “If I Had a Gun” (the chilling promise of an abused wife’s vengeance), the distillation process is more thorough than ever and the liquor of emotion that much more potent.

--Geoffrey Himes
(Geoffrey Himes writes about music for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Oxford American, Sing Out, Paste and others.)

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

Diana Jones combines traditional mountain and old-time sounds with a literate, character-driven brand of storytelling on her new album, 'Better Times Will Come,' (May 19th, Proper American). If the reaction of her fellow songwriters is any indication, she's produced something of a masterpiece. Two of the songs from her new record have been covered by some of the nation's most recognizable folk artists; Joan Baez covered “Henry Russell's Last Words” on her Grammy-nominated album 'Day After Tomorrow', while Gretchen Peters has recorded “If I Had a Gun". Notable names lending a hand on 'Better Times Will Come' include Mary Gauthier, Nanci Griffith and Betty Elders, The Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor, and more.

'Better Times Will Come' uses deceptively simple lyrics which tell their stories with the hypnotic repetition and plain speech of old mountain song. Pay closer attention, though, and you’ll hear a modern literary voice working with irony and implication. Listen, for example, to how skillfully Diana uses the subjunctive mood on her version of “If I Had a Gun," the conditional threat of a mistreated woman. Listen to how subtly Diana marks the passage of time in “Henry Russell’s Last Words," based on a real letter written by a dying miner. Hear how true love and undeniable defects can coexist on “Cracked and Broken." The lyrics are not strictly autobiographical, but they echo Diana’s own experiences.

“There are only so many songs I can write from my own particular story," she concedes. “I’m constantly interested in other people's stories anyway. Anyone who wants to be my friend all they have to do is tell me a story. It’s an interesting thing for me to approach my own internal landscape through other people's stories—I ask myself, ‘How would I write about that and be truly honest?’ It gives me a way to express my emotions in a bigger way, a more interesting way.”

She approaches her own background, for example, by telling the stories of other adopted children. “All God's Children," from the new album, is the story of an 18-year-old kid, on his own in a friendless world after a lifetime of foster homes. “Pony," from the previous album, is the story of a young Dakota Indian girl taken away from her parents in 1924. The latter was nominated as Song of the Year by the Folk Alliance.

“I was adopted,” she says simply. “I knew I was adopted, because my parents adopted my brother when I was two and a half. Thinking like a two year old, I thought that was how everyone got a baby. Later on, I learned it was more complicated than that, and I grew up wondering where I came from, what my other family was like.

After leaving home at 15 and eventually finding her way to an undergraduate program at Sarah Lawrence College, Diana set about trying to find her birth family. Finding them in Tennessee through a combination of old-fashioned detective work and dream interpretation, Diana was overwhelmed "The first week after I found them I was in shock almost. Everyone was very sweet. I talked to my grandparents and my aunts. I got pictures. I had never seen people who looked like me, who sounded like me, so that was pretty amazing. We made plans to get together in Tennessee, and my mom flew over from England.”

It was as if, having learned she was from Tennessee, she could finally make sense of her formerly mystifying musical impulses. As a youngster she had always perked up whenever she heard a Johnny Cash or Emmylou Harris record but such opportunities were few in the Northeast and she didn’t connect them to the broader field of country music.

She threw herself into music. She went busking through continental Europe, moved to New York and joined an alt-country band. She soon realized that she didn’t want to sing someone else's songs, so she moved to Austin, where original songs are honored as nowhere else. She played the open mics and coffeehouses and eventually recorded two albums: 1996's "Imagine Me” and 1998's "The One That Got Away."

At the beginning of 2007, more than 10 years after her first album, she was nominated as Best Emerging Artist at the Folk Alliance Awards. The nomination was entirely appropriate, for she had, without warning, emerged as a new kind of artist with a new kind of song. That recognition led to the tours with Richard Thompson and Mary Gauthier, to the recordings of her songs by Joan Baez and Gretchen Peters, to the appearances at folk festivals on both sides of the Atlantic and to her powerful new album, 'Better Times Will Come.'

This is what makes Diana Jones such an important new songwriting voice. She is able to take the facts of other people’s lives—or of her own—and distill them into the fine whiskey of feeling. The facts are still there—they provide the vivid details that allow us to imagine ourselves inside a collapsed mine shaft next to Henry Russell or in the dorm of an American Indian boarding school or in the Appalachian bus depot where a “Soldier Girl," with a green duffel bag over her shoulder, prepares to leave for boot camp. But the focus is always on the characters’ immense longing—of Henry for his wife, of the young Indian student for her father, of the new soldier for the lover left behind—the kind of longing we listeners can recognize, even if we’ve never been in a mine, an Indian school or a boot camp.

That feeling is there in Diana’s concise, economical words, yes, but it's also in her hymn-like melodies, so simple and so sturdy, and in the keening sound of her drawling alto. Two years of hard touring since her last album have honed those skills. On this album, which includes her own version of “Henry Russell's Last Words," plus “Soldier Girl,” “Cracked and Broken” (an inspiring tribute to damaged survivors), and “If I Had a Gun” (the chilling promise of an abused wife’s vengeance), the distillation process is more thorough than ever and the liquor of emotion that much more potent.

--Geoffrey Himes
(Geoffrey Himes writes about music for the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Oxford American, Sing Out, Paste and others.)

This biography was provided by the artist or their representative.

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