Sound — 8
Roots rock has it's favorites like Neil Young, Jeff Buckley, and the Old 97s, but lately the genre has been brandishing a more polished look and melodic sound which J. Jones, the sole member of Animal Sound, has honed quite impressively. Animal Sounds latest EP, In The Forests Of The United States from Beaten Path Records, sounds like a record that most people would expect from a major label. The husky baritone register of Jones' voice spears through the rattling strokes of the acoustic guitar slicing with smooth shears while flanked by jangly tambourine beats. The melodic bonding creates a Gypsy vibe embedded in roots rock acoustics. Jones experiments with the vibrations of the acoustic guitar, varying the licks texture, tone and tempo. He produces an Asian-tinged flange opening A Dog's Life and a freight-train rumble rolling along The View. His vocals feel like heavy hoof prints marking the tracks with a trail of passionate singes and a forging spirit. The guitar vibrations flutter tenderly across The Colors There while engaging in hoisting stronger gales through The Valley Below. Jones' vocals dwell in these melodies like an intrinsic piece of their fluidity making the swells become voluminous and retracting into slender streaks. In The Woods has a soul rock threading which turns to a smoky folk-rock brushing along A Revival' with subtle elevations in the rhythmic knolls. Jones' vocals ramble with a renegade's conviction in New Territory while the slow burning acoustic flames of the melody project a dusky atmospherics knifing hairline sprigs which move the tune like an intangible specter. Jones has an ethereal swagger that you can't quite hold in your hands, but his register imprints the tunes with a heavy mark that is rock solid.
Lyrics — 9
Jones' lyrics are often profound and metaphorical like in The Valley Below when he perceives, I've got a thousand miles / I've got a hundred names / I walk these footprints and they're all the same / They're all the same / Below, we go. Other such profound lyrics include Oh this life / No wrong, no right Blue sky now black from The View, and from In The Woods where he alludes, Watch him cool off the Sun. Jones makes observations poignant about life, and sometimes the lyrics are self-reflective like in New Territory when he declares, I could see us here / Right to the end / Sometimes it rattles the earth / It shakes the nerves / But I could see us here / Until the end. The lyrics are personable, and yet somewhere relatable to other peoples lives with verses that speak of their woes.
Overall Impression — 9
Strangely, you don't have to be a fan of roots rock or acoustic rock to enjoy In The Forests Of The United States. A good solid rock album is a good solid rock album no matter what form the music takes, which is what J. Jones has done. The tracks have a spiritual vibe, which usually roots rock music denotes more rustic-infused vapors. Jones isn't Neil Young's roots rock or anyone else's. He has his own ideas about what acoustic rock is about, and his perceptions make the genre quite appealing, even to non-believers.