Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.
Courtesy of the artist
Courtesy of the artist
Glenn Jones makes real albums. That may seem obvious for someone who has released six full-length solo records. But in the musical form that Jones practices — an instrumental acoustic-guitar tradition known as American Primitive — it's not a given. Because the style requires technical skill, it can be tempting to just rip out a few displays of finger-picked prowess, slap them together and call it all an album.
For Jones, that wouldn't be enough. His records are consistently thematic and thoughtful, exploring ideas that work together rather than merely occupying the same piece of vinyl. Fleeting is his most cohesive album. Each song flows naturally into the next, with motifs repeated in small variations and moods that connect across track breaks. Many of Jones' artistic concerns — places and environments, musical forefathers, the passage of time — arise simultaneously, as if they're branches of a single tree.
The bright lines of "Flower Turned Inside-Out" seem mirrored by the slower, more pensive shapes of "Close To The Ground." Bittersweet plucks in "Mother's Day" evoke holidays spent with loved ones, while similar meditations strike a more forward-looking tone in "June Too Soon, October All Over." Two pieces, "Cleo Awake" and "Cleo Asleep," are literal counterparts, as Jones plays the same melody on banjo and guitar to mimic the cycle of morning and night. Perhaps that's why he called the album Fleeting -- the emotions he explores may recur, but the days they inhabit keep passing by.
On that count, two songs feel especially poignant. The searching banjo piece "Spokane River Falls", named after the city in Washington where Jones was born, is like an internal, nostalgic conversation. Short, sweet phrases return like memories that refuse to fade. In "Portrait Of Basho As A Young Dragon," Jones converses with one of his biggest influences, the late guitarist Robbie Basho. With delicate notes and decisive strums, Jones reckons with Basho's legacy and adds to it in the process. In that sense, he's time-traveling, moving backward and forward until the present blurs, turning something fleeting into something beautiful.