Local Review: Columbia Jones – I’m Fine
Local Music Reviews
Burro Borracho Records
Columbia Jones = The Lumineers + Goodnight Texas + The Civil Wars
Salt Lake-based blues/folk and roots rock musician Columbia Jones knows his way around the Utah music scene, considering he’s been performing pretty much since he moved to Utah in 2011 and has been in a handful of bands in that time, including The Cold Year, June Brothers, and currently blues-rock outfit The Harpoons.
On I’m Fine, Jones’ sophomore release under the name Columbia Jones, he proves his versatile talent as a musician, playing all the instruments on the album except for the standup bass on “Walk” and “I Guess,” and recording, producing, and mixing the album by himself. Through the familiar folk and roots rock instrumentation and blues riffs alone, I’m Fine succeeds as an album more than worth your time, but what makes it feel unique is its consistently engaging lyrics that connect to the relatable feeling that everything in our lives and the world is quietly tearing at the seams, no matter how much we try to tell ourselves that it isn’t.
The album opener, “Walk” immediately grabs my attention because of the catchy and jumpy guitar and standing bass before Jones confidently states his commitment to walk his walk, like he always does. “You can’t make me change a single thing / Just because you say it don’t make it true / I know you like the sound of your own voice, don’t you?”
After several upbeat, rock-tinged folk and roots tracks, “Run” is the most stripped-back song on the album with just a guitar and Jones’ voice. Jones sings with vulnerability about his doubts about being successful as an artist after having a “banner year as a musician” in 2019, performing 107 gigs in 12 different states, yet still making a very small profit. “I was staring at these numbers, thinking of all the hard work I had put into being a musician over the years, and felt like I wanted to run away from it all,” Jones says. A few minutes in, Jones’ voice soars gorgeously as he sings the chorus with fervor, “I just wanna run / I just wanna run.”
“Just Fine” features a slow, held-back instrumental build with a patient, folk acoustic guitar and consistent eerie clicking (or simple) drums until the energy erupts on the bridge. “I think I was doing just fine / But you came in, you took me for a ride / And now I’m in the back seat and I’m wondering where you’re going to take me.” The lyrics are inspired by a time when a friend of Jones, who was going through a rough period in her life, told him she was probably going to divorce her husband right before the three of them hung out at a bar. “This song was written from her perspective,” Jones says. “She had dated and married him too fast and before she knew it, it had gone sour.”
“I Guess” is another highlight of the album, with welcomed folk and roots instrumentation and Jones’ dynamic vocal delivery, especially when he sings one of the catchiest choruses on I’m Fine. “I guess that it must be that no one can tell me if I’m doing something wrong / Am I doing something wrong?”
“Armageddon” is a fitting closer to an album that doesn’t overstay its welcome, with a run-time of about 35 minutes. Over a melancholic guitar, Jone’s incredible vocal tone and control stands out as he ponders how a love interest is doing in the midst of the unstable city. “No food on the shelves, searching for shelter / Businesses closed, they board up their windows / But I was thinking of you and what you would do / In these crazy times, when it’s late at night, can you sleep?”
I’m Fine finds solace in being honest about all the times we say we’re fine but are actually not.
Through its reliance on reliable folk and roots instrumentation and consistently engaging storytelling and lyrics, I’m Fine manages to feel intentionally rough around the edges with its imperfections in the audio and performance, but through that, the album feels more human and relatable. Jones says he wrote virtually everything on I’m Fine without any input from people, which is for the best because it allows the songs to be unapologetically themselves. Jones’ distinctively personal lyrics and vast experience as a musician shine as they should. –Andrew Christiansen