by Kevin Callan
Hezekiah Jones, a key element of the Philly-Folk scene, starts off the Pastorius Park Concert Series at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 18, at the park at Roanoke and Abington avenues.
Describing its sound as “New Weird American,” Hezekiah Jones is led by singer songwriter Raphael Cutrufello, who employs a group of constantly-changing, like-minded musicians. Stage names for the band conform to a Ramones-like use of the surname Jones – Kiwi Jones, Poconos Jones, Pepe Jones, and, obviously, Hezekiah Jones.
Live performances for the band include anywhere from one to 12 band members with instruments ranging from guitar and piano to dobro, glockenspiel and accordion.
The name Hezekiah Jones is derived from a character in a 1948 poem written by Joseph S. Newman called “Black Cross,” which was later turned into a song by Bob Dylan in 1961. The poem is about a black man who was hanged for his choice not to associate with any particular church or religion.
The band started recording in 2006 and released new music for seven straight years through 2012, including two full-length albums, two EPs, and a few compilations with other Philly-folk artists. Hezekiah Jones’s most recent performance was on May 3 at the Burlap and Bean coffee shop in Newtown Square, as a six-piece.
The band’s first album from 2006, “Hezekiah Jones Says You’re A-OK,” features tracks with standout lyricism and vocals that drew comparisons to Simon & Garfunkel from listeners and critics. An online music blog called The Owl Mag showed the difficulty of describing the band’s sound when they contradictorily described the album as “unsettling yet soothing” and “earthy yet ethereal.”
Their second full-length album released in 2011, titled “Have You Seen Our New Fort?,” shows listeners a less-familiar side of Cutrufello. The album title and artwork of a bearded man with a pipe in his mouth and a castle growing out of his head introduces the youthful thoughts and ideas behind the album. It features more psychedelia than regular Hezekiah Jones listeners were used to and showed similarities to the Beatles with some of its horn arrangements.
Hezekiah Jones also did a compilation album in 2011 with another key Philadelphia folk band called The Spinning Leaves. Their album, produced by Mad Dragon Records and cleverly named “Hezekiah Leaves & The Spinning Joneses,” featured a more classic country-rock feel, most evident in their single “The Crab Song.”
The Pastorius Park concert series is produced every year by the Chestnut Hill Community Association and is sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and Chestnut Hill Hospital. Hezekiah Jones’ appearance is also sponsored by WXPN, the radio station of the University of Pennsylvania.
If it rains, the concert will be moved to the Lower School Auditorium of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Cherokee Campus. Be sure to check chestnuthill.org, where notice of a rain move will be posted after 6 p.m. the day of the concert.