When Diana Jones flew on a plane from New York to Eastern Tennessee and took her grandfather’s hand for the first time, her life was changed. Growing up as an adopted child in New York, Jones had an affinity for songs by mountain music artists not popular with her contemporaries. After searching out her birth family at 15, she connected with her Tennessee roots, and discovered that her birth grandfather (Robert Lee Maranville) had been a professional picker touring with Chet Atkins. Jones’s journey took her to Austin, where she worked on the craft of songwriting, and back to the Northeast, where, after her grandfather’s death, she locked herself away in a cabin to write.
Her music is in the best of folk/country/roots music traditions, focusing on the richness of story combined with strong melody. In 2006, she won the prestigious New Folk Contest at Kerrville. That year she also released My Remembrance of You which earned glowing reviews in British magazines like Uncut and Q, as well as the chance to tour with Richard Thompson. More validation came when Joan Baez recorded Diana’s “Henry Russell’s Last Words” on her 2008 album Day After Tomorrow. Jones recorded the song, as well, on Better Times Will Come, which the Chicago Tribune hailed as Best Country Recording of 2006.
Just as authoritative as Diana Jones’s pen, however, is her singing voice, a clarion alto whose rich timbres and elongated phrasing sometimes suggest a cello or viola. “I try to be very present to my material, to mean each word I sing,” she says. “That to me is the bottom line. It’s like telling a story. You want people to understand what you’re singing, but you also want to believe it yourself, to really get into it. And that’s really the joy of it. It feels like flying.”