In the four years since her debut EP, Growing Things, came out, Kaiti Jones has been refining her sound—where Growing Things is spare and honest, Jones’s newest release, VOWS, is full and introspective.

On VOWS, Jones’s first full-length release, her clarion voice flows effortlessly on top of warmly strummed and bowed strings. The guitar and fiddle on the album give VOWS an edge of Americana while the poetic lyrics beget the singer-songwriter vibe.

“If I ever have a hand / to hold so tight / I hope it’s you,” Jones sings on the opening track, “What Was I Doing.” The vocals give way to a few bars of the fiddle bowing along uninhibited—the pace of the song is thunderous, as if the instrumentation can barely be contained, akin to the emotions pouring out of Jones’s words at breakneck speed.

Storytelling is very important to Jones. She cites Flannery O’Connor, Wendell Berry, Madeleine L’Engle, Bob Dylan, Josh Ritter, Anais Mitchell, and David Ramirez as some of her sources of inspiration. She admires these storytellers because they all approach their storytelling with “mastery, gravity, and wonder”—traits she seeks to incorporate into her own stories. “Each of the songwriters I mention has written countless songs that cause me to unravel from the haunting, unmatched quality of their poetry,” she said. “It’s easy to tell with each of them that they likely identify as a storyteller first and a musician second.”

She describes her sound without using genre boundaries, calling her music “confessional bedtime stories,” and it’s fitting—VOWS explores the human experience, as told by the hyper-personal analyses embedded in the lyrics of each song. “The best songs I’ve heard, the ones so good they make my heart hurt, are those that give new language to something about what it’s like to be a person on this earth,” Jones said. She added that, as humans, we are constantly falling in and out of love, hurting and being hurt, and experiencing other things, as she puts it, must inevitably be written about. She sees her duty as a storyteller first and a musician second, and values storytelling as an artform. “I don’t just want to tell a story—I want to tell it in a way that is honest, simple, and poetic in a way you haven’t heard before,” she said.

“Don’t you lean into despair,” Jones sings in “Wild Things,” one of the quieter moments of VOWS. “I have come in through the garden / and there are signs of life out there / among the wild things.” All of the songs before this one feature percussion in some respect, but on “Wild Things” there’s only an egg shaker that quietly keeps time in the background while Jones plucks out a mellifluous melody on guitar, supported by a gentle, spare violin. The instrumentation swells underneath while Jones croons about the scariest things we’re too often afraid to admit about ourselves—she sings that she’s bad at letting go, at growing old, at being free. “Wild Things” is more subdued than any of the other songs on the album, which gives the track a secretive quality, as if Jones is letting you in on some of her deepest, most personal thoughts. It’s a song about opening up, which is reflected in the music—the instrumentation grows as she gets more confident, her voice reaching a crescendo while the instrumentation slowly backs away, until her dulcet vocals are nearly isolated as she belts: “And when the darkness comes, tell me where I’m from and how I might return to the peace of the wild things.”

Being a part of a community and to dedicate her art to good storytelling are among the vows Jones has made to herself. “The record as a whole explores a broader understanding of vows, seeing them as any type of contract we enter into, belief we hold, memory we carry, or story we tell,” Jones said, discussing the album’s title. “Not just sharing my own,” she said, “but making sure that the stories of the people around me are being heard—especially those who societally might often get silenced.”

Speaking of communities, VOWS came to be with the help of Kickstarter. Though Jones said she’s struggled with the idea of crowdfunding, she ultimately chose it because it allowed those who supported her to have a tangible outlet to do so. “It’s still a weird concept, but I’ve had to sink into the genuine kindness and excitement of my community as they help me get this record out,” she said. “It’s been pretty amazing to watch and I feel extremely humbled and frazzled and loved.” She reached her funding goal within the first week of the month-long campaign, to her surprise and delight.  

Armed with her guitar, the occasional uplifting fiddle, sporadic percussion, and her honey-sweet voice, VOWS is a simple but elegant debut LP from Kaiti Jones.

Album release show November 26th @ Club Passim. Tickets here, doors 7pm.

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