When I was 15, I was jonesing for new music and as I always do, I went scouring the Internet looking for bands. At the time I was pretty into Hootie and the Blowfish and Edwin McCain, who are still tops in my book, but I digress. Hootie and the Blowfish had a link to their old producer Dick Hodgin's Web site, M-80 Management. So I was browsing around the site and saw this band called Far Too Jones. The name seemed pretty cool and if Hodgin had worked with Hootie, he had to have good taste. So I downloaded their song "Anna. O," and within the first five seconds I was hooked. The minutes the words, "Should I breathe a new and bolder breath," I was sold. Who was this band and how could I get their music? For my 16th birthday I asked for their self-titled EP and I still remember the day it arrived in the mail. I ran to the mailbox, tore through the bubble mailer and put the disc on. Good gracious, it was amazing. The first 10 seconds of the guitar riffage on "Ages of Blame," and I had made my mind up. I had a new favorite band.
Around that same time, my family switched from CompuServe to AOL, and I decided to make my screen name "FTJNorman," an ode to my new favorite band and a folksinger from Virginia named Phil Norman, whose music had also been grabbing me at the time. For the next two years, I made sure to visit the Far Too Jones Web site at least once a day and the fanboy in me went wild.
In 1996, they released their first full-length album Crawling Out From Under on their own Aszum Records label. A year later they released the Plastic Hero EP on Deep South Records, the same label that launched the careers of The Marvelous 3, Athenaeum and Five For Fighting. Touring in support of this album Far Too Jones flooded the Southeast, Midatlantic and Northeast to wide acclaim and inked a deal with Mammoth Records, who fueled the band's breakthrough album Picture Postcard Walls. The only single "Best of Me," went on to be included in Dawson's Creek and even landed on some radio charts as far north as New York. The quartet expanded to a quintet, adding the guitarwork of Dave Dicke, and toured iwith Seven Mary Three and the now-defunct My Friend Steve throughout the United States. By now, the band was gaining a ton of steam and they seemed inches away from their first major breakthrough. And then the bottom fell out.
Mammoth folded, FTJ was discarded and the band hit a swell. They flew to California, inked Howard Benson to produce their new disc and crafted the album Shame and Her Sister, their best work to date and also their swan song. Released on the band's Aszams Records for the first time in five years, they were fortunate to land some major distribution and the disc appeared in stores. Even to this day, the album still keeps me floored. Without any major label support and with sales of Shame and Her Sister slumping, Far Too Jones announced their retirement in the spring of 2001. A farewell show at Greensboro, NC's The Blind Tiger drew fans from as far away as Oregon, Texas, Michigan and Australia. Their true impact had finally been realized. Lead vocalist Christopher Spruill went on to reform the power-pop band The Clear, a derivation of Far Too Jones that featured two of the band's original members. Initial reaction to The Clear was strong but the project never gained acclaim or appeal outside of the Southeast. At present, Far Too Jones is still very much ancient history.
That sad reality only plagues fans such as myself, who still yearn, rather foolishly, for one more studio album, one more national tour, and one more chance to hear Christopher Spruill sing. There truly are fewer voices as strong as his.