Solid Blues Records/Stony Plain Records
A Strong and Soulful Release that Transcends The Blues and is More Than the Sum of its Guests
I must admit, I’ve never been a huge fan of the Blues – I can take it in small doses, but I often find it a bit too generic and uninspiring as a result of my personal over-familiarity with its patterns and styles and influences.
To get my attention then, a Blues release has got to offer something that bit extra, or something a bit different.
The challenge is there Mr. Jones….
I’ve actually been fortunate enough to see JW Jones in action – he played in a small pub local to me, pre-COVID, the sort of place that he’d probably left behind many moons ago in his native Canada and despite the bijou and compact nature of the audience, he gave his all and put on a fine exhibition of showmanship and varying Bluesy styles.
It’s that variety and versatility and lack of preciousness about – and yet respect for his influences – which grabbed me on the night and it’s again in evidence on this latest release “Everything now”.
Opening title track, which features iconic New Orleans drummer Stanton Moore (he’s recorded with acts as wide ranging as Joe Jackson and Corrosion of Conformity!) is a NOLA-inspired shuffle and the choice of drummer is well-suited to the soulful deep south grove of the track.
“Keeping Me Up” which follows moves into Cameo (remember “Word Up”?) and/or Prince ‘Funky’ territory, with a fine bassline and hooky Rick James-alike spin when the word “freaky” is used.
It’s not your standard Blues, that’s for sure (or should that be “Fo Sho”?)
There’s another drummer guest on track 3 – Aaron Sterling – whose credits include John Mayer, Harry Styles, Tears for Fears and..gulp..Taylor Swift (!) adding a thumping drive to this chunky, bass thudding opportunity for a bit of fret-bending -it edges on Bonham/Zeppelin in its “oomph” value at times and although JW is no Planty, he gives it a good go.
Personal favourite of mine is the next track, the tough walking blues of “Take Your Time” which features Jimmie Vaughan on duelling guitar.
Bar-room piano and plucked strings make an appearance on the hi-hat punctuated late-night stomp of “To Tell You The Truth (I Lied)” which strangely reminds me of peak INXS – and it works really well – single material to these ears.
You can’t keep the guests away though – and next up it’s the turn of Rob McNelley, long time sidesman for Delbert McLinton and whose credits also include Hank Williams Jr and Dolly Parton – Jones and McNelley take turns on the solos and both provide economical, funky turns that add to the song, rather than the museum of fret-wankery!
That’s why they’re so good – knowing when just enough is enough…
Unsurprisingly “It’s Not Raining in LA” takes a smoother shift, with Gary Moore-like tone over a soulful Hall & Oates type vocal. Geographically, the mood shifts in a south-westerly direction on “When You Left Me” – the directional shift is also a musical one, as there’s a deep soul groove thanks to the use of the low down and dirty Texas Horns juxtaposed with the high-fret psych-soul riffing – probably the best vocal on the album from JWJ too.
“Works Every Time” is a funkier and chunkier workout altogether, with more of a Philly Soul feel, whereas penultimate track “I Choose You” hops between a gentle reflective acoustic rumination and a plucky blue-eyed soul singalong.
The catalogue of guests reaches a fitting conclusion on the final track, when Gordie Johnson of Canadian group Big Sugar – and producer of seven tracks on this album, adds the rest of the instrumental kitchen sink to “Good To Be True” which reminds me in lots of ways of Huey Lewis’s “Hip to be Square”.
With so many guests, this album could easily have turned into a fragmented series of set-pieces, but JW Jones has chosen his compadres wisely and there’s a consistent, soulful feeling that unites the album – musical prowess is there in spades, too, but it’s there for the sake of the song.
At the start, I declared my wariness of the Bl**s word , but JW Jones has done a good job in taking his influences and constructing a strong soulful release that transcends that genre, so it’s a thumbs up from me.
Review by Nick Barber
Released May 26th 2023
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