November is officially a month worth celebrating since the merry band of music makers led by Hezekiah Jones has released their latest album. And it is as lush, experimental, weird, and beautiful as you want it to be. Everyone has a reason to be thankful that Hezekiah Jones continues to be so prolific.
The new album, In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw, is comprised of twelve songs that are filled with blooming melodies and jangly ruminations on familiar and unfamiliar landscapes. Anyone that is acquainted with the Philadelphia posse, led by the pioneering musical madman Raphael Cutrufello, will be pleased to know that the tunes on this album are just as original, inventive, and unexpected as their last ones.
The explanation of the eccentric album name is riddled in double-speak and allusions to literary characters and historical figures. Guided by Cutrufello, the listeners are the Watson to his Sherlock in the search for the meaning of the title (according to the explanation on Woodfarm Records’ website). But in true inspired fashion, the creative ensemble of musicians hold all of the answers to the questions that they’re posing. Hezekiah Jones, and oosi Lockjaw, are ready to confuse the mind with musical erudition.
The motley crew of Philly artists continues to create warm, folk-ish refrains and memorable melodies. But they’ve expanded on their previous aesthetic, and the new album is filled with an even richer and more cohesive sound. Hezekiah Jones is far from a singular entity with an acoustic guitar. It’s the ever-persistent use of varied instruments that makes oosi Lockjaw, and the musical project in general, inimitable. It’s not unthinkable that the listener will be involved in a song and all of the sudden there will be a fiddle breakdown, or an unexpected melange of other instruments. You get the sense that the music comes from creative improvisation, but the final result is dexterous and thoughtful. Part of this might be that Cutrufello, working under the moniker Hezekiah Jones, was often accompanied by his band the Family Jones in the past albums. However In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw deviates from the one-man process, and the two entities function as full collaborators in the studio. The results are devastatingly earnest, heartfelt, and inspired.
The new songs are filled with the twangy and reverberating intonation that fans have come to expect, but imbued with an entirely new energy. And the plunky rhythm and liberal use of sleigh bells on songs like “Bound to Be Sick” will unquestionably have people compulsively re-listening to it.
The whimsical is balanced with the tender in songs like “Spare the Wicked,” and “How the Wind Loves You.” And if familiar physical landscapes and controlled strings bring a lump to your throat, “Pittsburgh,” will certainly hit a chord (no pun intended. Sorta.).
Longtime fans will be familiar with “Borrowed Heart,” a favorite originally on the album Shaking Through. And it makes sense that the melodious and melancholy song is one of the singles on the new album. Dominated by bittersweet vocals, delicate electric piano, and the haunting whine of the musical saw it’s the ultimate song for the gloaming season. The mournful wail of the electric guitar amidst the multi-instrumental crescendo, and tempered by an understated but optimistic banjo line, is an exercise in practiced and adept songwriting.
In its entirety, the album is layered, exquisitely crafted, and sincere. The journey of In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw is a genuine testament to finely hewn musicians making nostalgia-tinged music in modern and remarkable ways. The only problem with oosi Lockjaw is that it’s so good you’ll want it to go on forever.