Checking in with Hezekiah Jones

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Tonight at Sellersville Theater WXPN Welcomes a triple bill with Chris Kasper, Andrew Lipke And The Prospects, and Hezekiah Jones. Kasper, Lipke, and “Jones” are mainstays of the Philly singer-songwriter scene and have recently been busy working together and separately on a variety of projects. Hezekiah Jones recently completed a new album called Have You Seen Our New Fort?, produced by Andrew Lipke. The new ten-song collection is coming out on February 8th on Yer Bird Records.

Like Jethro Tull, Hezekiah Jones is a band, not an actual person. Jones’s Ian Anderson is Raphael Cutrufello, who has been making music under the name of Hezekiah Jones since the mid-’00s. They released their debut album, Hezekiah Says You’re A-OK, in 2006. Hezekiah Jones is organized around the songwriting and playing of Cutrufello, a talented and creatively crafty singer-songwriter whose work falls in to a continuum of bands like Iron & Wine, Will Oldham, Good Old War, and others who use “folk” and acoustic music as a stepping stone to the present. You can certainly file this kind of music under “indie-folk” (a way of nicely saying this isn’t Pete Seeger or Tom Rush); I prefer “acousticana”—music made in the tradition of American and acoustic songwriting.

I caught up with Raphael via e-mail to get an update on the new album and an upcoming “Hezekiah Leaves” collaboration.

The Key: You’ve been a busy guy. You’ve got a couple projects lined up in early 2011, a solo album and then this Spinning Leaves collaboration. Tell me about the Hezekiah Jones album. Give us some of the vitals on it.

Raphael Cutrufello: The songs on the album had been written over the course of many years. And some released in different versions on other records. We kind of felt like they belonged together and deserved the same treatments. Some of the stuff is a little darker and most are piano based tunes for me. We were also really lucky with the performers we got for the album. Phil D’Agostino is a staple of Hezekiah Jones live shows, weather they be on the road or at home, but we had yet to get him on any of the albums. So it meant a lot to me to have him all over the album. He is a big part of our sound at this point and I really wanted the album to represent that. Also, another awesome musical addition on this album is Jonas Oesterle, of The Teeth, and many other Philly-based bands. He is easily one of the best and most creative drummers in the city. So to have his input and playing on this album really took it to the next level. We weren’t trying to make a folk album or anything. We were trying to make these songs work together and give the album a cohesive feel. I first was telling people it was a hip hop album we were making to let on it was something different but didn’t want to give too much away. But at this point we are calling it a pirate-pop album. The kind of stuff you’d listen to while sharpening swords or working in the galley. This is the record I’ve been dreaming of making for the last ten years and we are very happy with it. Here’s the video for the version of “I’ve Got a Little Room (Cannonball)” that was released on Quite Scientific Records as a split 7 inch w/ Chris Bathgate. The song gets new life with Lipke’s Horn Arrangements and clarinet solo for the Have You Seen Our New Fort? album.

The Key: The record was produced by Andrew Lipke. What did he bring to the table?

RC: What didn’t he bring to the table? We couldn’t have done this album without Andrew Lipke. He brought everything but the songs to the table for this one. That man is a genius and I feel blessed to have had the ability to work with him. He wrote all the horn arrangements, produced, engineered, and played some of the instruments for the album. We spent a weekend recording with Phil Nicolo at Studio 4, getting the drums, bass, and piano tracks down. Then we moved to Andrew Lipke’s studio, The Record Lounge, and fleshed all the songs out there. Andrew would spend time adding sounds and instruments to the songs and stripping them back down until we found out what the songs really needed. It took a while. But we both wanted to be happy, so we were ok with that. I love that man dearly.

The Key: Tell us about The Spinning Leaves collaboration. How did the project come together? Is this the record coming out on Mad Dragon?

RC: The Spinning Leaves had released their album Love with Ropeadope records. Andy Hurwitz is the founder of Ropeadope and ended up at Drexel working at Mad Dragon Records. So when they were looking for projects to work on for Mad Dragon they came to The Spinning Leaves, and they came up with the idea for this album. The album is kind of like a double EP. One side is Hezekiah Leaves which is more of a rocking, silly, more full band side. And The Spinning Jones is a dreamier, acoustic, softer side. Its going it to be a great album. Michael Baker put in a lot of time for the album and has been acting as producer for the project. We also had some great student engineers that put a lot of time into it they didn’t have to. We are planning on a March/April release for it. Here is video of Michael playing “Beautiful Swan,” one of my favorite songs on the upcoming Hezekiah Leaves/Spinning Jones album.

The Key: The name of your band is Hezekiah Jones, however there really isn’t a real person named Hezekiah Jones in it. Do folks call you Hezekiah? And if they do, do you correct them?

RC: I do get that sometimes. I usually correct people about that. But sometimes I just let it slide. Everyone in the band has a Jones name, so chalk it up to that most the time.

The Key: Musical thoughts you want to share looking back on 2010? Favorite albums? Shows? New music discoveries?

RC: Oh geez. 2010 is a fog to me at this point. Everything went so fast, it’s hard for me to separate it all into real thoughts. I spend a lot of time listening to 88.5 or 90.9 when in the car. A lot of the music I listen to at this point are Philly artists or friends from around the country. So my favorite albums for this past year are The Johnny Miles & the Waywards, Brad Hinton Band, Good Old War, and Cast Spells (2009). Our friend Dave Davidson of Maps & Atlases is coming out to Philadelphia in January to record his solo album under the name Cast Spells. Some of us from Hezekiah Jones are going to be lucky enough to be his backing band for the album. Very, very excited for that project. Here’s some video of us backing him up with Good Old War in a basement in Hoboken from a tour we all did together last year.

WXPN Welcomes Andrew Lipke & The Prospects, Hezekiah Jones and Chris Kasper to Sellersville Theater, 24 West Temple Ave, Sellersville PA. Showtime is 8PM. If you can’t make it out tonight, Hezekiah Jones is also perfoming an upcoming concert at WHYY on January 13. Details here.

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  • Spikerdad

    Very nice…. these guys (ansd girls) are some of the warmest, nicest people on the planet…Philly is blessed to have them in our backyard.

  • Richard Kelly

    Saw the show in Sellersville last night- unbelievable. Those who have not had a chance to see Hezekiah
    Jones do yourself a favor and check them out. An absolute musical treasure right in our backyard.