Featured Artist February 2008: Kat Jones

Dolly Parton. Garth Brooks. Loretta Lynn. Kat Jones. Which one of these is not like the others? If you answered Kat Jones, the Twirl Radio Artist of the Month for February 2008, then you’re right!

But why in the world would I make such a comparison? Well, Kat Jones originally hails from Sacramento’s neighbor to the south, Fresno. A couple of years ago, she made her move to Nashville, TN to pursue…well, not country music! I’d describe her sound as alternative rock. She’s got an incredibly rich voice–somewhere in the neighborhood of Chrissie Hynde or Margo Timmins. The music itself has a dark, sweeping, intense sound, with literate lyrics. I am curious to know what brought her to the country music capital of the world. I had my chance to find out, when I interviewed Kat live on Twirl Radio on Saturday, March 1st, 2008.

I hate to admit this, but I’m a late arrival to the Kat Jones party. She put out her debut full length album La Rosa, La Calavera, on Velvet Blue Music, back in 2004. But I first heard of Kat last summer when I was researching Sparklejet, my June 2007 Artists of the Month. As you may recall, Sparklejet also hails from Fresno. Being the technophile (ok, geek) that I am, part of my research always includes looking the artist up on MySpace, and inviting several of their top friends to be my online friends too. That way, some of that artist’s friends become aware that I’m featuring their friend that month. (Ok, ok, now you know my secret.)

But I really did find Kat this way, and after hearing a few of her songs on MySpace, realized that she’s a major voice. After begging her people for some CD’s, and a chance to interview her, well, here we are in February–you know the rest.

La Rosa, La Calavera is Spanish for “The Rose, The Skeleton”. As you might expect with a name like that, there is much beauty, and some creepiness in the songs. Kat’s music comes in layers. The two leadoff tracks, The Night Is A Veil and Those Expensive Eyes, are both gorgeous and ominous at the same time. I’m reminded of The Doors–especially with the haunting organ backing. Both strong, must-listen tracks. Another compelling track is One More Second Chance, which opens with a big, soaring steel guitar sound, but again, not the way you’d expect it to be used in Nashville. It clears a path for Kat to show us her full emotional and vocal range. She starts out singing in a low, cool alto, then builds up to a full crescendo. Whoever this song was written for, you must give her a second chance after hearing this!

Other standout tracks on La Rosa include Elliot, with perhaps the most interesting instrumentation on the album. It’s in waltz time (for us non-musicians, that’s a “1-2-3” beat) with a pronounced drum on only the second and third beats. Kat comes in with her typically dreamy vocals, while an Americana-sounding electric guitar steps up and vies for your attention. And to bring this gem home, some Beach Boys style backing vocals round out the sound. Delicious! Letters is another vocal performance which starts out simmering and goes full throttle, with help from some atmospheric backing guitars and what sounds to my ears like either a banjo or mandolin. Really, Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders should record some of these songs!

Kat also put out a very good Christmas EP a couple of months ago called He’s The One I Need The Most. I’ll Be Home For Christmas (not the Bing Crosby classic you’re thinking of, but an original) has a very similar beat to Elliot, and is a very personal note to her family. The title track He’s The One I Need The Most is a beautiful reminder of the “reason for the season”. This EP keeps Kat’s music out there, while she works on her rumored next album.

One other noteworthy recent bit of exposure: Dwell Magazine, a modern design review decided to feature some of Kat’s music on an online video feature highlighting the work of New York artist Jason Miller. Go to http://www.dwell.com/daily/video and click on “Emerging Designer: Jason Miller”. The music from La Rosa, La Calavera is really well suited to this video.

I’m looking forward to hearing what comes next for Kat Jones. I’m pleased to have her as the Twirl Artist of the Month for February, 2008!

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