Dennis Jones Band – WE3 Live
Blue Rock Records
14 tracks | 68 minutes
If a true bluesman must pay his dues to play the blues then Dennis Jones has paid in full. He was the second lead guitarist in the renowned Zac Harmon Band and can be heard on their premier album Live at Babe & Ricky’s Inn. In 2004 he was in ZHB when they won the prestigious International Blues Challenge as Best Unsigned Band. Since then Dennis has relentlessly pursued his solo career culminating in this blistering mix of well-crafted songs and quality Hendrix-laced blues rock. His vocal bark is as bad as his guitar bite. This disc features selections from all five of Jones’ solo albums. His L.A. based power trio’s rock solid rhythm section consists of Sam Correa on bass and Raymond Johnson on drums. Dennis has come a long way from Zac’s band. He was a side player then and now he’s the star. The sound is crystal clear, full of sonic punch with a thick bottom end. It’s as good as any studio recording.
The biggest takeaway is how well these three mesh together in the intimate live setting at Beaver Creek Brewery in the off-the-beaten-track town of Wibaux, Montana. The rapt audience cheers them on with every lick and cleverly twisted phrase. Maybe a deal with the devil was made, or not, but there is ample evidence in his lyrics. Dennis has seen the dark underbelly and has come out the other side with some first hand stories to tell. Bad luck in love seems to be his cover story as in “Blue Over You” or “Stray Bullet” but the truth to be told is when he talks about how there’s plenty of time to rest… “When I Die” and the unabashed anti-drug ode “Kill the Pain”. “Blue Over You” starts the evening off with funky bass and choppy melodic chord phrasing. The leads take center stage. The volume goes up when the solos take shape. Dennis takes the sonic excursions seriously every time so nothing is wasted. “Passion for the Blues” lists the luminaries he paid his dues to such as Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Etta James, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others he name checks. The lyrics pay proper homage where homage is due, mostly to the roots while Dennis plays the role of the torchbearer.
The well-constructed flights of soaring guitar fancy are well-framed by the sleek arrangements. His signature Stratocaster tone is consistent and his octaves, double-stops and sustained notes are reminiscent of both Stevie Ray and Jimi. In a Crossroads style battle he could give Joe Bonamassa a run for his money. Fluid runs are his weapon and he spreads it all over the music like hot mustard. In fact his song “Hot Sauce” brings in some needed comic relief. “Like it so hot, want to feel some pain.” A nice little song about one of the true unsung heroes of the blues: the culture of bottled heat as opposed to the tired anti-hero “canned heat” of old “Sterno” based drinks. Hot sauce is not toxic but still gives many a blues musician a nice pre-gig or post-gig kick in the pants. Dennis does his own take on the well-worn riff from “Third Stone from the Sun” on this track. It’s a southern take on it using the secondary “Peter Gunn Theme” riff in Freddie King’s “Hide Away”. By copping two blues rock guitar gods in one solo he better have the chops to back it up and he does. He goes for the more familiar on “Super Deluxe” with half-step chords complemented by the straight single note pentatonic scale runs. It could be his hit.
The one criticism here is that the penultimate song, “I’m Good”, is good, but too much like the Count Basie / Joe Williams showstopper “Alright , Ok, You Win” lyrics by Mayme Watts and music by the greatly underappreciated Sid Wyche. “No thanks, no way, I’m good” lyric utilizes that song’s popular phrasing to great effect. The albums sequence is well thought out and each tune has its own reason to exist. The vocals are fresh, new and uncommon. It’s a sweet syrupy articulate sound.
Dennis Jones has a way of singing the blues where each word is understood and the stories of his blues life are interesting for long enough to get to the meat the matter; his muscular lead playing. If he made a deal with the devil it may be time for the devil to pay up as this album delivers the goods.