The best Americana songs all have one thing in common: someone has to get shot. Singer/songwriter Hang Jones took this to heart when writing the songs for his debut album The Ballad of Carlsbad County. What began as a collection of bluegrass inspired country-rock songs evolved into a Western Outlaw-themed story album complete with hangings, gunfights, love, sex, and revenge. Jones credits two of his songs as catalysts for inspiring him to write a concept record. “When I began writing material for the new record, ‘Caroline’ and ‘Red’ were my favorites. I liked them for their cinematic quality, and they were a lot of fun to sing, but when I noticed that they could be chapters in a much larger story, I got really excited about rewriting all the other tunes to fit into the story.”
The album chronicles the life and fall of William Bishop. Born the son of a notorious outlaw, William, at an early age, witnesses his father’s capture and hanging. He spends his developmental years wrestling with the stigma of his father’s crimes (and punishment) while his mother stresses that William’s fate is not the same as his father’s. “I liked the idea of playing with free will versus destiny. Put the protagonist into situations where if he does what he feels is morally right, he will eventually wind up on the same road as his father, a man he himself views as amoral.” Each track on the album is a chapter in the story, taking William, and the listener, to the inevitable crossroads where our hero will have to decide his own fate: hang like his father, or live free like his mother taught him.
Jones is no newcomer to cinematic songwriting. His songs have been featured in the film “American Venus” (2007), as well as NBC prime time television shows “Friday Night Lights,” “The Black Donnellys,” and “Quarterlife.” Jones is also a skilled front man; honing his live performances in his Americana rock band Del Bombers, opening for such legendary acts as Social Distortion, The Blasters, and The Cadillac Tramps as well as several headlining North American tours.
To promote his latest creation Jones has embraced the many tools available on the web to get his music to his fans. A series of music videos have been created, allowing the viewer to get deeper into the storyline of the album. The videos will be released in installments on the Hang Jones website (www.hangjones.com
), as well as several peer to peer and social networking sites. Modeled after an old radio serial show, each video has a cliffhanger ending, building up tension for the video that follows. In addition, Jones has added a “Legend” page to his site, where visitors can read how each song on the album ties into the overall story. While taking on such a massive undertaking for an indie artist appears daunting, Jones remains fervently optimistic that his message, and songs, will be heard. “Success or failure for indie artists is entirely up to them. We have never been on such even footing with the record companies. So let the majors keep trying to sell us the same old fluff we don’t want; I’ll focus on getting really cool, high-concept music to the fans that will want to hear it.”