JW-Jones – Sonic Departures
Solid Blues Records
9 tracks – 34 minutes
Canadian guitarist JW-Jones had his year get off to a great start. At the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, Jones was a member of the Horojo Trio, sponsored by the Ottawa Blues Society, named the top act in the Band category, and Jones was named the recipient of the Gibson Guitar award as the top guitar player. The latter recognition confirmed what many reviewers have been writing about his talents since the beginning of Jones’ career, 20 years and ten albums ago.
His latest recording started with tracks that were recorded last year. After learning how to use some new recording programs, Jones worked on the vocals and guitar tracks while sequestered at home in the wake of the virus shutdown. He also worked virtually with the engineer, Eric Eggleston, to put the finishing touches on project. His touring band, Will Laurin on drums and Jacob Clarke on upright & electric bass, keep the rhythmic fires stoked, and former band member Jesse Whiteley returned to help out on keyboards.
What sets this album apart is the presence of a 13 horn players, giving many of the tracks a swinging big band sound. The opening original, “Blue Jean Jacket,” is a lively romp that finds the guitarist reminiscing about long-gone days of innocence, the memories wrapped up in a favorite piece of clothing. Jones unleashes a fiery solo to bring the track to a close. Whiteley is featured on organ on another original, “Same Mistakes,” as Jones makes good use of his lighter toned voice on the song’s catchy chorus. The rhythm section sets a driving pace on “Ain’t Gonna Beg,” with blasts from the horns amplifying the energy level until Jones steps in on guitar, reminding everyone who is the boss with a blistering solo, veering into a far more intense emotional space.
The remaining six tracks are covers, starting with a hip rendition of “Drowning On Dry Land.” The horns blow hardy accents at the end of each vocal line Jones lays down, engaging in some spirited interplay behind his guitar solo, giving the cut a solid New Orleans R&B feel. Jones and his wife, Brit Wynne-Jones, join together for the harmonizing vocals on a fast-paced version of the Everly Brothers classic, “Bye Bye Love,” followed by a jaunty rendition of the Clarence Carter hit, “Snatchin’ It Back.”
Some listeners may wonder why Jones decided to include the oft-covered “The Things That I Used To Do.” Those concerns will quickly dissipate once you hear his extended guitar break, steadily building the tension while refraining from slipping into shredding mode. “It’s Obdacious” is another swinging track, with a brief solo interlude courtesy of Jeff Pighin on tenor sax. Jones employs some B.B. King-style licks on the final track, “When It All Comes Down,” the horns consistently making their presence felt. Jones takes over at the end, treating listeners to one last taut guitar solo.
While the disc is a bit short, Jones makes the most of the playing time, packing plenty of punch into each track. The prohibitive costs of touring with a big band, if touring was even a possibility, means there is little chance of hearing Jones fronting the band live on stage, horns and all. Too bad, as it sounds like it would be a damn good time!