Album Review: Hezekiah Jones – In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw
The eclectic folk act of Hezekiah Jones continues to intrigue me with each new listen. The title of the album, In Loving Memory of oosi Lockjaw is itself mysterious enough to conjure an effort to understand. Once the band begins – with a sort of ragtag flavor (while still being musically solid), I can’t help but wonder what it’s like around their fireplace.
There are some characteristics that define Hezekiah Jones’s work. If you’re a fan of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, you’ll appreciate the sort of gang vocal flavor and layers of symbolism. While I don’t fancy to know what each line is about, I get the distinct impression that the album itself is about thinking about life as an adventure. There are elements of “seize the day” in the album, but also “keep it real” attitude for balance. I like that.
I wish the album started with “Strange Dream” instead of “Bound to be Sick.” I think the vocal blending on “Strange Dream” is more indicative of the band at its best. Beyond that, I think the bizarre imagery of the track is more attention grabbing than the other song. That said the first three tracks (including the relatively short “Toronto”) are all enjoyable in different ways.
“Borrowed Heart” sounds like a diary entry put to music. It has an introspective, reflective tone in the lyrics. The music is a bit more atmospheric than the rest of the album. “Oh, what if she hates me?” The reflective lyrics are for the doubters out there. Then “Spare the Wicked” has a considerable amount of ecclesial language; instead of finding redemption in the divine, the author finds redemption in “gin.” It seems to carry an interesting message calling for people (or God? Or both?) to care for the “wicked” and the “blind.” It’s a sort of sardonic call for forgiveness and reconciliation.
“How the Wind Loves You” has a fascinating syncopated beat that keeps me interested. The lyrics are a little more cryptic on this one. At its core, I think the message is about finding yourself as a part of the environment (as opposed to having everything be about you). Ultimately the author spins the song in a direction of a relationship, melding the existential and the romantic. It leads into a song that I had to cover, “Pittsburgh.” Considering myself a native of the metropolitan area of the city, I was intrigued to hear references to the steel industry and hard work. But the violin works nicely, creating a beautiful image, juxtaposed nicely with “I’ve never seen the sky in Pittsburgh.” About 60 years ago, that was true.
The most popular song on the album is “The Dark Heart’s Out,” a twisted and convoluted folk rock track with some pretty slick minor chord turns. It feels like the heart of the 60s made a lovechild with the rock of the 70s and the grunge of the early 90s. Or, put a different way, imagine Cobain and Lennon co-writing a song – this would be it. It seems like it’s about a wide range of contemporary political issues (“don’t build a wall,” for example), but it may be purely metaphorical. I can’t quite tell.
All told this is an album with a good bit of variety. The reason I think you (yes you) should spin it is that it will go places both musically and lyrically that you aren’t expecting. If folk music has an avant garde, Hezekiah Jones is a part of it. There are things here that will have you cursing me for even tagging it folk, but then other elements that will make you feel glad you found this emerging and evolving brand of music.