Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Jon Stubblefield’s conceptual continuity
Jon Stubblefield writes and sings songs, writes short stories, farms, and takes good care of his Irish Dexters. He nurtures his family farm located between Odessa and Warrensburg, Missouri. I first heard Jon sing in February when opened for Dollar Fox at the recordBar in Westport. Watching him, hearing him sing and tell stories, paint musical pictures, transported me somewhere. His guitar playing, played upon a sweet blonde Gibson, finger picking nuanced and melodic completed the whole package vehicle of this very interesting and engaging performer.
We corresponded back and forth over the month. Jon has chores. He doesn’t get to town much anymore, so we both had to be patient. We met last week and talked music and life over the course of a few drizzly hours. First thing Jon mentioned was he was hoping for clear weather the next day. He needed to move some hay…for the Dexters I assumed.
Try to locate Jon’s music or rather save yourself the online journey. There’s a song on YouTube he sings with Quentin Phipps, “The Westport Shuffle” (2006), recorded, kinda recorded with a bad camera and a loud liquefied audience at Davey’s Uptown. Jon wants to write ten or so more songs before recording again. I’ll have to wait patiently because Jon has placed no deadline on this recording project. Jon lives a rich life grounded on Stubblefield farm, anchored in the soil, alive in what grows there.
You can use the over-used term organic for his songwriting process. He likes process by the way. He understands the Frank Zappa concept of “conceptual continuity”. I need to research this more. Jon lives it. I’ve met other singer-songwriters in Kansas City living the authentic contiguous, living what you sing, artistic journey. You know them. But it’s not often we are blessed with an American agrarian artist in our urban midst. He looks the part but he doesn’t play the part because he is who he is beginning with the sweat-patina’d hat he wears which his mother doesn’t fancy. Don’t get him started on that.
Talk with Jon and you must include the blonde…the Gibson that is. When we met, he brought her along, uncased her right away, cradled her, and included her in the conversation often. Talk about Mom who’s a reader. Her favorite songs branded in his intellectual catalogue; Red River Valley, Down In the Valley and Summertime…when the livin’ is ease-zay…fish are jumpin. Daddy’s not rich, he’s a farmer too. Soil sounds rich and grass must be sweet. I’ll have to interview the Dexters in the future when the Spring shoots sprout.
Two decades of guitar playing. Three and a bit decades of living life, including seven or so years in MidTown, Kansas City. Not a great seven years but instructive ones. The years taught him, pointed him to his core…the core of his writing soul with an azimuth pointing back home.
The songs he writes have atmosphere and narrative, engaging melodies, a sound perhaps you’d call country, which makes sense. Or call it Americana if you want. A new song with a ghost from a place called Locust Creek. Don’t try to find it on a map. Look instead for Honey Creek, in Kansas up around Tonganoxie. Conceptual continuity of ghosts and the spirits of the boys who rode with Colonel Quantrill…rock and chalk that, Jayhawks. This land has stories if you listen. This city of hours is only minutes away from farms and ranches all around us reachable with a gallon of gas.
Jon loves soul music. He and the blonde sang Tracks of My Tears and Bring on Home To Me for me. Sam Cooke and Smokey Robinson, and now Jon Stubblefield. Continuity with context.
I tried to organize this interview with some curious questions. I tried, but I’m really happy that Jon brought the blonde, talked about the Dexters, shared a few story ideas, played songs, allowed the blonde plenty of time to talk. She made it a special afternoon. This is a special pair these two, Jon and the blonde. This is an artist who makes art about his life with conceptual continuity, honest about the fear of performing solo, or rather with the blond, hard as nails, engaging without pretension, soiled boots, sweat infested hat and all. My life is richer now after making friends with Jon Stubblefield. Looking forward to his record someday. Looking forward more to visiting Jon on Stubblefield Farm soon to speak with the Dexters and listen to the blonde again...she has a name, "Baby". Don't forget her.
Pictured above, Jon and Baby, photo by me.