High Atmosphere is the third in a series of superb albums that Diana Jones has released since 2006 in which she creates seemingly simple and plainspoken (plain sung, really) songs which draw on the traditions of southern folk music. While the songs and performances may be seemingly simple, they are, in fact, skilfully drawn pieces that weave together timeless melodies with lyrics that are poetic and oblique on some songs and which tell stories and present fully fleshed out characters on others.
The albums open with the title track, a lonely, moody piece in the style of an Appalachian folksong that would seem to be about finding refuge above the fray. Apparently, the song was inspired by some devastating flooding near Diana’s home in Tennessee that she was spared from because her home was up on a hill.
I particularly like Diana’s character- and story-based songs. In “Sister,” her narrator is the sibling of a woman caught up in a relationship with a man she views with well-deserved suspicion. She sings “I Told the Man,” as the wife of a coal miner unsure, as always, whether he’ll come up out of the mine alive at the end of his shift. In “My Love is Gone,” she mourns the departure, or perhaps the death, of a lover, with quiet desperation. In “Don’t Forget Me,” she sings as man who’s trying hard but still can’t quite measure up.
These songs, and the rest, represent some of today's finest songwriting. Diana Jones is one of the most essential folk-rooted songwriters of the past decade.