Moth Nor Rust, released in 2009 on Borealis Records, finally found its way into my home only yesterday. The first few listens already made me realise just how exceedingly fine an album it is. Yes, it’s Folk music, but somehow the musical style (as much as I am fond of it) is irrelevant, as the songs on here are quite simply that. Songs, and stories. Brooks could arguably be classified as a songwriter in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger or early Bob Dylan. No romanticising for the times of the Dust Bowl, Hobos and such to be found on here, though, his songs are firmly rooted in the early 21st Century.
At first listen his songs aren’t overtly personal, actually quite the opposite, as they are dealing with all kinds of people you meet on the streets. Whether these people are soldiers, working in a pub, an office or at Walmart, does scarcely matter – it’s their lives with all their contradictions, thoughts and problems these 10 songs are concerned with. Yet, for all this, they are highly personal stories too, Brooks’ convictions and beliefs permeate every one of them. So, you hear a lot of words such as justice, mercy, love, freedom and healing. Not many artists (whichever medium they are using) I can think of, can express their beliefs quite as eloquently and touching as Jon Brooks can.
Musically Moth Nor Rust is even more reduced compared with some of his other records (2014’s The Smiling And Beautiful Countryside and 2012’s Delicate Cages, still haven’t got the first two records of his) although these could hardly be described as lavishly produced either. On here it’s only him, his guitar and harmonica (and a bit of percussion, possibly only the body of his guitar). Still, the sound is clear, robust and rustic (but completely absent of traces of traditionalism and/or being ‘Country’), not in the least due to his resonant and muscular voice and the fine, natural guitar playing. Despite the lyrical themes and the often beautiful melodies (as on Small, War Resister, God Pt. IV, there is nothing maudlin or whimsical about these songs.
Moth Nor Rust is good for the soul. It’s a life-affirming record, making me believe the world has got the potential of being a slightly better place. All it does need is some more people taking his stance towards life and the world to heart, and doing the right things.
‘… if it’s not love, we can’t take it when we go..’ (When We Go)