When family matters beckoned Glenn Jones to Bergen County, N.J., the guitarist — famous for his work in the experimental rock band Cul de Sac and solo discography — wrote and recorded his most personal album to date.
“You can’t go home again, though sometimes you have to,” said Jones, who performs in the Schlow Centre Region Library’s Groundbreaking Reads summer concert this weekend. Always a welcome guest in State College, this performance marks Jones’ fourth appearance in a Schlow-sponsored concert; his most recent was in 2011.
Jones’s newly released fifth album is called “My Garden State.” Born in Boston, Jones’ vision of the place where he spent his adolescence is pastoral. There are no Giants nor Jets in this encomium to Jersey; no Mafia, Springsteen or boorish beach bums.
Instead, images of quiet suburbia, pine trees and vernal pools are conjured.
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“Driving through countrysides, by my old high school and the library ... parts of the area really haven’t improved at all,” Jones said.
As such, the songs on “My Garden State” are appropriately austere and unhurried. Jones accentuates his instrumentals with classical, folk and blues elements, and he gives each piece the time it needs to build and resolve. He continues to treat the banjo not as a hillbilly accessory, but an instrument of majesty and subtly. Like his first four records, this one even bears cover artwork of anthropomorphic animals and plants playing guitars.
What makes “My Garden State” different is the glimpse into Jones’ personal world. “Blues For Tom Carter” details the ailing health of friend and peer Tom Carter, guitarist for The Charalambides. He pays a visit to “Alcouer Gardens” on a humid, rainy afternoon, where one of the residents is his mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. The album’s closer, the sweet-natured ramble “Bergen County Fairwell,” finds Jones and his sisters selling the family house.
Despite Jones’ immense abilities to tell wordless stories with vividness and conviction, he leaves enough ambiguity in his music to let listeners form their own interpretations.
“Maybe they’ll see what the music means to me — and that’s great — but I’m not bound to that,” Jones said. “Music is a dialogue between the performer and listener. I’m not interested in songs that tell me what to think about them; I hope my music will speak to people on its own.”