Laurie Jones. Photo by Jen Dean

Lubec-born and currently Saco-based singer-songwriter Laurie Jones released one heck of an album on Oct. 22. “Dark Horse,” her seventh, comprises nine solid-as-rock tracks.

“That Summer” kicks things off on a bright note as she sings about the proverbial golden days of summer youth with the car radio blaring. Though there’s also some angst swirling around in the lyrics, the tune mentions Talking Heads and gives a nod to Stevie Nicks with the line “Ride the edges of 17, that summer I wore your jeans out.”

“Light Side” is a 1,000-watt rock tune in which she somehow manages to slip in the word “supercalifragilistic.” “Come on over now and put your favorite records on,” invites Jones, vocals blazing.

“Dazed,” is a slower, bittersweet account of a relationship that’s fallen on hard times. “This meant to be, this make believe. It’s all I need, a glimpse of your face, it’s leaving me dazed,” sings Jones.

The rest of the album shines with Jones’ mighty but gorgeous vocals on songs like “Good Man” and, especially, “No Hell.” As soon as you get to the end of the “Dark Horse” closer, “Letting Go,” you’ll find yourself firing it all up again for another round. This album wants volume, so be sure to give it a righteous crank rather than putting it on in the background. Trust me on this.

The album’s name didn’t come to Jones until she was done making it and recalled a dream about a dark horse that had followed her home and comforted her. She told others who worked on the album about it.

“We talked about that for a long time and how that was impacting my writing,” she said. The horse imagery revealed itself again while Jones was writing the song “Good Man.” It also brought to mind her late father, who was a fan of the dark horse analogy. “This record is a dark horse, I am a dark horse, an unexpected underdog, fighter, overcomer and an unlikely contender that might just knock you out,” explained Jones.

Jones said that “Good Man” is close to her heart because it’s the song that changes the album’s tone. “It’s sweet and it is sharply to the point. It’s forewarning that things are going to get messy,” said Jones. “Running from your little lies. Truth could hurt you and so will I,” declares Jones in the song. And messy indeed is where the album goes next with “No Hell,” another standout track that’s moody and bold.

“Dark Horse” closes with “Letting Go,” which brought Jones to tears when she recorded the vocals. “This whole experience was like a long therapy session, and getting to that level, with the team I have, took a great deal of trust,” said Jones, who hopes that listeners can feel the vulnerability and rawness in her songs. I, for one, certainly do.

Jones told me that her songwriting process varies, but because “Dark Horse” was mostly written during the pandemic during the worst of what she referred to as the “staying put” stretch of time, Jones would often wake up with melodies in her head.

“My writing time was 4:40 a.m. consistently. I would hear a melody, and then words, and I would get up and write it out.” Sometimes she’d grab her guitar in the predawn hours to work on chord patterns. “Regardless, it’s critical I get out my recording device, because I’m so afraid of losing the melody or lines.”

Laurie Jones’ “Dark Horse” album cover. Photo by Jen Dean

Jones has been singing for as long as she can remember. She started to play the electric guitar when she was 9 and took lessons from Down East guitar legend Harvey Cox. Writing songs came later when she played in a rock band as a teenager. “I felt I could write better material than I was hearing on commercial pop radio and what my all male bandmates were asking me to play.” During those years, Jones gravitated more toward artists like David Bowie and Joan Jett. “I did not want to play Lynyrd Skynyrd!”

Jones said she is really proud of “Dark Horse” and hopes that people hear and see themselves in the songs and that it lifts some heavy burdens. “Life is beautiful and messy, and being able to make music with good people has been an absolute joy,” she said.

Jones dedicated the album to her parents and, in fact, her mother passed away a few days after the track “That Summer” was released in September. “That part really sucks and makes this so bittersweet for me,” said Jones, who added that there’s also cause for happiness, as she is celebrating six years of sobriety this month.

“Dark Horse” is available on streaming platforms, iTunes, at Bull Moose stores and at lauriejonesmsuic.com. Recorded and mastered at The Halo Studios in Windham, it was co-produced by Darren Elder and Mehuman Ernst and was engineered and mixed by Kevin Billingslea.

The musical contributors are Elder on percussion, Billingslea on guitars and bass, Jake Wertman on drums, Torin Jones on acoustic guitar, Glen Kavin on keys and strings, and Amy Gauthier on backing vocals.

Jones will play an acoustic show at Blue in Portland on Sunday that will also be available to stream. It will be her first live, in-person show since 2019, and although she told me she’s freaking out about it, I have a feeling she’s going to nail it. I know I’ll be there.

Laurie Jones
5 p.m. Sunday. Blue, 650A Congress St., Portland. portcityblue.com


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