Caleb Landry Jones – Hey Gary, Hey Dawn (Sacred Bones Records)


Caleb Landry Jones is an unpredictable and enigmatic actor. Always choosing unique and fascinating roles, such as Antiviral, Nitram, Heaven Knows What, and Get Out. His work as a musician is similarly idiosyncratic. I first came across him as an actor and a musician at the same time. After watching the 2010 horror The Last Exorcism, the extras contained behind the scenes footage of him playing this intriguing left of centre folkish type tunes of his own. Fast forward to 2024, and four albums in, Hey Gary, Hey Dawn is a vast journey that is far from linear.

Upon first listen I was reminded of the diversity of Josh Homme’s Desert Sessions, through his amped up guitars, and every song being completely different from the last. I also heard pathways into weird Beatles territory with some of Caleb’s orchestrations reminding me of the way George Martin arranged albums like Sgt Pepper’s and Magical Mystery Tour. Upon further listens, I began to understand that Caleb wasn’t channelling any of these influences, but merely exploring the intricacies his own personality within his music.

Caleb is an incredible multi-instrumentalist, and on Hey Gary, Hey Dawn he has given some of the songs a kind of heavier edge to it than his previous albums, with intense orchestrations and mood changes. With multiple horn sections, percussion, crunchy guitars and distinguished string sections. The first song ‘Hey Dawn’ kicks this album into gear nicely and would be a killer opening track for a live performance. The first single ‘Corn Mine’ sounds like the kind of song you would hear after coming back to life from a near death experience. That sheer combination of uneasiness and joy, delivered in a way that only Caleb’s mind would allow.

The wide variety of instruments used on this album are right up front, making the listening experience even more intriguing, enjoyable and at times downright perplexing. This I believe is an incredible achievement. The song ‘He Sued His Wife’ is a kind of country ditty laced with Caleb’s dark sense of the absurd, about a guy who sued his wife because their children came out looking like “little Frogs and Pigs”. It’s a peculiar story that someone like Tom Waits would pull off. Caleb has this ability to make his music unearthly, with these vastly disturbing lyrics, creating a listening experience that is a pure source of fascination. Other songs like ‘The Bonzo Bargain’ and ‘Your Favourite Song’ have a strange and uneasy sense of a young Caleb discovering what’s underneath that large tarp in the garage he was told not to go near – and discovering some kind of disturbing contraption that produces music and gunpowder.

The song ‘Hey Gary’ has a blistering 1-2-3-4 intro that bursts into this deranged short punk rock song that begs you to ask for more. But upon reflection, the pleasing thing is that you don’t get it. Every song on this album is a different and idiosyncratic creation, a departure from the last that offers a different emotion, a different feel, a different world.

Hey Gary, Hey Dawn changed me, and it can change you too. In a way it’s another string to his bow, a work that makes you appreciate the depth of his creativity and artistry more than ever before. It will be fascinating to see he transforms this intricate and complex work to a live setting.


About Author