Jonathan Byrd and Diana Jones
When the son of a Southern preacher and the orphan daughter of a Southern family get together to record an album, it’s not surprising that it would sound like deep-rooted gospel-country-folk filtered through modern sensibilities.
Radio Soul, recorded in seven hours by Jonathan Byrd and Diana Jones in Nashville, is filled with songs of heartache, immortality, and one of those rare days of heaven on earth. Sharing lead and harmony vocals and sometimes singing duets, Byrd and Jones offer six of her songs, four of his, and the classic “Blue Eyes” by the venerated A.P. Carter. They all linger in simple music, which is mostly acoustic guitar and gently played banjo. The songs jump right into spiritual issues. The title tune is a mother’s plea to her son, who met Satan instead of Jesus on the radio. “Poor Boy” is a cultural history of the labor movement in a little under three minutes. “The Things of This World” wonders about the afterlife, while “Reckon I Did” tells the tale of a man who got drunk, lost his girl, and signed up for the war. Three of Jones’ songs — back to back to back on the c.d. — are bittersweet story-songs, of someone who’s been abandoned, someone wanting to join a loved one on the other side, and an orphan wanting to walk with family in heaven. Byrd won the 2003 Kerrville Folk Festival competition for best new folk artist, and Jones has performed with Martina McBride, Del McCoury Band, Guy Clark, Odetta, and others. Together, the two singer-songwriters have created a sweet, lonely duet album the old-fashioned way — akin, it seems, to walking into a closet, as in O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and “singin’ into a can.”