Sounds Like: Sara Watkins covering Feist's "I Feel It All," fiddle and all
For Fans of: Nickel Creek, Laura Marling, all the brothers' bands: Avett, Punch and Felice
Why You Should Pay Attention: Things could have gone a lot differently for Laney Jones — the native Floridian was on her way toward a degree in international business when she realized she favored singing and banjo strumming over trades and currencies, heading instead to Berklee College of Music to study songwriting under former American Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. It proved to be a good investment: a few years later, she was playing her quirky breed of folk-pop alongside Alison Krauss, who because an instant fan. There's a sheen to the tracks on her third self-titled album and strings of penetrating hooks — those DioGuardi classes paid off big time — paired with rootsy instrumentation and Seventies-era flourishes that keeps it from ever ringing too twee. She's the kind of Americana artist who can work equally well on the indie stage of a bluegrass festival as in an iTunes commercial.
She Says: "I gained so much from talking songwriting with Kara," Jones says about her early mentor. "About looking at your lyrics and reading them down on the page, asking, 'Does it say something, is it effective?'" As for the sonic palate, she's focused on blending that pop sensibility with a wide variety of influences, from country to classic rock. "I love seventies Bob Dylan, The Band. There are soul elements, too. It doesn't feel like we are coloring inside the lines. We're trying to be thoughtful with our arrangements and flush them out in different ways. I don't shy away from bluegrass, either. I still play banjo."
Hear for Yourself: The bright and plucky "Allston (Dance Around)" from Laney Jones, due March 11th. M.M.