Billy Jonas

Life So Far

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Billy Jonas performed his special brand of "Industrial Repercussion" throughout the '90s, including a stint as a member of the Billys for five years, building a reputation as a strong act on the folk circuit, playing both children shows and sets geared more to adults. Using recycled buckets and household implements like pogo sticks, pots, pans, and garbage cans, Jonas exhibited considerable skill as a one-man singalong percussion band, a "junkadelic folk" hybrid sound blending Afro rhythms, Bo Diddley beats, hip-hop grooves, and irresistible tribal hooks. Added to his repertoire is a solid command of the acoustic guitar and contemporary folk songwriting, incorporating multiple influences: from the droning tunings of "Heijira"-era Joni Mitchell to the melodic pop-oriented songcraft of his cohorts in the '90s new folk revival scene, even echoes of R&B influences like Curtis Mayfield. Jonas' boyish tenor dovetails nicely with his witty, childlike wordplay. Life So Far, his first solo release, leans toward more adult concerns, without losing the childlike playfulness. Jonas' lyrics are whip-smart, sly, coy, and witty, pouring out in a cascades by the mouthful. Themes of togetherness "One" and "The Bus" are balanced by more personal relationship songs like "Late" and "Sleeeeeeeping." Some of the best wordplay is found on the forcefully rhythmic (and funny) "Coup D'Etat!" and the transcendently fresh and wise "God Is In." The album is rounded out by a long rambling autobiographical epic, "My Life So Far," which just veers short of tediousness because Jonas is able to pace his narrative with self-effacing humor. Given his gimmicky instrumentation, you might think Jonas is a flash in the pan novelty act; Life So Far shows him to be much more than that: a rewarding singer/songwriter able to blend contemporary sensibilities into a richly textured, updated folk sound.

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