“Locust Road Lament” by Bonehart Flannigan | Song Premiere



words by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photo by Chloe Ekberg

There is no Locust Road in Beatrice, Nebraska.

Jon Dell (aka Lincoln's Bonehart Flannigan) has explained this fiction about his hometown before, while on stage at Lincoln Calling and Lincoln Exposed with his full folk band. Before playing the song “Locust Road Lament,” a dark bluegrass dirge about a town in which everything is dying, he has noted the actual street is called Lilac Road.

But those fragrant pink petals don’t invoke the same ethos of elongated decline as the feeling of some residual mosaic plague exacting itself on a rural community over generations.

“Locust Road Lament” is the first release from Bonehart Flannigan’s debut album, Backpacks and Mason Jars, tentatively slated for release in June on Sower Records. Dell is currently on tour with Universe Contest, in which he plays bass.

Now, while Bonehart’s live shows are a spitball of whiskey and a kind of dingy folk cheer, the recorded version of “Locust Road Lament” does introduce us to, perhaps, a more distilled version of the song and its core, contextual emotions. On the recording, Dell slows his vocal delivery down to hit and sustain every note, without the visceral and, sometimes pronounced, fluctuations of the live show.  

And the song drips and sags like an actual lamentation. The chronicles of a friend’s oxycontin addiction and commentaries on the town’s empty judgements — “there’s a hundred churches, but God’s nowhere to be found” — are backed by the instrumentation of Thad Miller on fiddle, Brian Vana on harmonica, Charlie Johnson on bass, Mike McCracken on dobro, Anthony “Butch” Owens on drums and Jeremiah Weir on the organ.

Listen to “Locust Road Lament” here:

Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska’s managing editor. Reach him at chancesp@hearnebraska.org.