Musician Karen Jonas talks about her latest album, Lucky, Revisited.
Singer-songwriter Karen Jonas spent five years touring with guitarist Tim Bray and has shared stages with artists like Dale Watson, Alabama, Robert Earl Keen, and Brandy Clark.
Now, with three acclaimed albums and a featured showcase at SXSW to her credit, Jonas is looking back on her career with her fourth album, Lucky, Revisited.
The new record includes nine songs released on her first three albums along with two new cover tunes.
Recently, we caught up with Jonas to talk about songwriting, Bob Dylan, and the new record.
Cowboys & Indians: We really love the new album, Lucky, Revisited. What’s most exciting about releasing it?
Karen Jonas: Thanks! I wasn’t sure how an album of reworked material was going to fly, but I felt really strongly about putting this out into the world. So, I am really excited about how it’s been embraced by fans and critics alike. Lucky, Revisited really closely resembles our live sound. A lot of listeners have commented on the energy and authenticity of the sound.
C&I: The album features new stripped-down acoustic recordings of nine songs previously released on your first three albums and two very cool covers. How did you go about picking your song list?
Jonas: That was tricky! Once I started digging into our track lists, I wanted to include all of the songs. But my main goal was to re-create our live set. So I chose songs that make the set list at most of our shows.
C&I: What made you choose the cover tracks that you chose?
Jonas: Again, a tough choice. I wanted to include a Bob Dylan tune because he’s been such a big influence to my concept of songwriting. But we play four or five Dylan tunes regularly, so even that didn’t narrow it down. In the end, I felt like our take on “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” was really unique, and Tim’s guitar playing is to-die-for. I love how it turned out.
Classic country is also a big part of our live set, so I wanted to represent that on this record. We learned “Lovesick Blues” for a Patsy Cline tribute show, but it’s always been on my list of favorite tunes Hank Williams plays. I actually thought he wrote it until I did some more research.
C&I: Where did you draw from for the acoustic renditions?
Jonas: We didn’t rearrange the songs for Lucky, Revisited — we just played them like we do live. The songs have grown and changed with time, which is why I wanted to make an updated record.
C&I: Tell is a little about the production process of the album. …
Jonas: We did things a little differently for this record. Guitarist Tim Bray and I recorded together first, to preserve the live feel. Then my engineer/producer/husband E.P. Jackson went in behind us and added the bass and percussion.
C&I: How do you approach songwriting?
Jonas: Lyrics and melody usually emerge together, but I’m not averse to finding one without the other. Recently, I’ve been ruminating and fussing over songs for weeks. It’s like a puzzle to fiddle with in my brain.
C&I: Is there a particular song that has really resonated with your audience?
Jonas: “Oklahoma Lottery” is a real audience favorite. It’s pretty hard to get ahead these days. I think people connect with that despair of “losing the Oklahoma Lottery.”
C&I: Is there a song you’re most proud of?
Jonas: I sure do like that Dylan tune — it’s ethereal and atmospheric. I love how “Ophelia” came out, too. We kick the album off with guns blazing.
C&I: Are there acoustic songs you chose for the album that didn’t make the cut and that we can expect down the road?
Jonas: I don’t think so, I’ve got a whole pile of new songs to get moving on now!
C&I: What’s next?
Jonas: We’re at work on our fifth album! We’re shooting for a spring/summer 2020 release. They’re all new songs that I am so excited about. We made a one-off vinyl recording of a live take of one of the songs at Leesta Vall [Sound Recording in Brooklyn] available. And check our schedule on our website for details on tour dates.
C&I: You hail from Fredericksburg, Virginia. What’s something else fans might not know about you?
Jonas: I don’t watch television; instead I take a nap every chance I get. I think quiet resting time is really important for creativity — also, because I love to sleep.
For more information on Karen Jonas and to order Lucky, Revisited visit her website.
Photography: Courtesy Amber Renee Photography.