Blind Pig 2014
12 tracks; 50 minutes.
A Canadian who has recorded with Kim Wilson, Little Charlie Baty and Hubert Sumlin amongst others, JW-Jones has tried to crack the US scene for years so perhaps the shift to a major US label and an in-demand producer will help. JW’s eighth CD was recorded in Nashville with Tom Hambridge producing and playing drums on the sessions with Dave Roe on bass, Rob McNelley on guitar and Reese Wynans on keys. On four cuts JW’s regular rhythm section of Laura Greenberg on bass and Jamie Holmes on drums appears. JW had a hand in six songs (four with Tom), Tom and his regular writing companions contribute four songs and there are two covers.
Tom and Colin Linden’s rocky “Love Times Ten” leads the way with Reese’s swirling organ, JW’s guitar and Tom’s drums on an upbeat opener: “Never gave a hoot about keeping score but when it comes to good lovin’ I always need more”. A storming version of Bobby Parker’s “Watch Your Step” is worth the admission in itself. The band really cooks on this from the start and the excitement generated is terrific. JW’s first writing contribution (with Tom and Richard Fleming) comes on “Blue Jean Jacket”, the two guitars meshing well on the opening section of this mid-paced rocker. Lyrically JW is reminiscing about his younger days, dating girls and learning to be a man – the common link being that jacket: “In my blue jean jacket I felt like I could take on the world”. The pace slows for another Hambridge/Fleming tune “Coming After Me”, a gentle blues with some strong lead guitar lines from JW. JW and Tom wrote the short and punchy “Don’t Be Ashamed”, JW underlining his vocals with his guitar with more than a touch of Otis Rush to these ears.
JW is the sole writer of the next two cuts. “Thank You” rocks along with some harsh lyrics: “She found another man, I guess someone had to take a stand. Thank you baby for doing me wrong”. Having already covered Bobby Parker and produced some Otis Rush style guitar, JW’s “Magic West Side Boogie” is clearly intended to honour the late Magic Sam and does him proud on a thumping instrumental which neatly combines boogie rhythms with some of Sam’s guitar styles. “What Would Jimmie Do?” (Jones/Hambridge) finds JW asking that question of another of his guitar influences, Jimmie Vaughan, with plenty of meaty Texas licks. The second cover is Buddy Guy’s “What’s Inside Of You” and JW displays his BG side with some torrid guitar. Of course Tom has produced the last few BG albums so the band gives some fine support to JW’s guitar and vocals.
JW has usually managed to find some really catchy tunes for his albums and “If It Feels This Good Tomorrow” (Hambridge/Anderson/Nicholson) is another. In another era this would have been a cert for the first single from the album; these days it’s one to download to your MP3 player for the gym. It’s a gloriously catchy tune with a wonderfully upbeat message about the guy’s new relationship: “If we both wake up dreaming, we don’t want the dream to end, ready to face the day together, over and over again. We can take this ride as far as it goes if it feels this good tomorrow.” After such an ‘up’ sentiment the song requires a great solo and JW delivers that perfectly – a superb song. JW’s “Never Worth It” is a great rocker with some crunching bass lines from Laura Greenberg and some echoey guitar with use of the whammy bar from JW. The last track is the brooding and serious “Cocaine Boy” (Jones/Hambridge) about the struggle of a young guy growing up in institutions and then getting involved in drugs: “A lifetime of nightmares and pain”. Unfortunately JW sings with distortion throughout and it is a lengthy (7.08) track, the combination of which makes the track one to which this reviewer will not return often.
Overall this is a very good album with several significant highlights and one that should finally let the US know what Canada has known for some years – JW-Jones is a class act.