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Music Review: Liberty Jones – Atlanta, Georgia

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I hate compartmentalizing music. I wish we could have just a few all-encompassing tags – pop, rock, classical, rap, country. Yup, as far as I’m concerned, that about covers it all. Everything is just a little faction of the whole. Pop-punk, classic rock, new-wave, screamo… it goes on and on. It would make life as a music critic (and a music lover) so much easier.

Sadly, though, my world of five genres is not to be. One of the biggest debates about crossing music lines right now is the blurring between Southern Rock and Americana. Falling squarely between those lines is Liberty Jones, a five piece outfit from Atlanta, GA. Their album, by the way, is cleverly titled… ahem… Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s a little bit country, a little bit rock (all Osmond references aside), and a whole lot of heart. That’s the best part of this band and this album in particular. Their passion for what they do shows clearly in the impassioned vocals and quality musicianship. Steed Kettles mandolin is exceptional and my absolute favorite part of the album.

Atlanta, Georgia is more covers than not, with reworked versions of Roger Mathis, George Harrison, Gordon Lightfoot, Neil Young, Steve Earle, and even Jimi Hendrix. The covers are obviously included as a send-up to the live show fans that keep things rolling, and most of them are very good versions, staying true to the originals while playing around with the Liberty Jones sound. This is done remarkably well on Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind.”

There are some problems, most notably the covers of “Left Behind” (Mathis) and Harrison’s “If I Needed Someone.” Neither of these songs were ever masterpieces and they are equally as boring here. In fact, they sound very much alike. They are not suited for opening tracks and I only hope that new listeners don’t hear these and quit listening before they get to track three.

What surprised me most, though, is the strength of some of the originals. Southern Rock bands often get mired in covering “Sweet Home Alabama” and never really find their own voices. Liberty Jones can be proud of the best track on the album, “Gina,” written by Steed Kettles. It’s an ideal vehicle for lead singer Jeff Eno’s radio friendly tone.

As they start getting more radio play around the country I wouldn’t be surprised to see Liberty Jones take quite a stance in the Southern Rock/Americana/Country… oh, whatever… world.

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About Kate C. Harding