Rowland Jones – Rowland Jones Live! | Album Review

Rowland Jones – Rowland Jones Live!


CD: 11 Songs, 42 Minutes

Styles: Acoustic Blues, Solo Album, Live Album, All Original Songs  

“Back to basics.” What does that phrase conjure up in your mind? Perhaps a de-cluttering mindset. Life is complicated, often too complicated. Why add and end up with more frustration when you can subtract and end up with less frustration? Sometimes simple things are best. Nevertheless, in certain things like art, music, and chess, the more you simplify, the more precise you have to be. Take acoustic solo blues. It’s a whole different animal from band-based electric blues. With the latter, the instrumentation is the focal point rather than vocals and lyrics. If your high notes are off-key, there’s always the colorful camouflage of other musical elements. When all you have to rely on are your acoustic guitar and your voice, no such backup exists. There’s no safety net. You’re walking a tightrope of timbre and tone: an exacting balancing act.

The UK’s Rowland Jones performs it on his latest Live album, featuring eleven original songs with sophisticated, spot-on lyrics (“Still the Blues,” “Squeeze Me Right,” “How It Is”) and sophistication born of a decades-long and unwavering love affair with blues music. Nevertheless, he teeters on certain numbers, such as “Don’t Play with Fire.” It’s a more-than-satisfactory ballad, but imagine if Eric Clapton or even Richard Marx would have had a go at it. The narrator is trying to warn a special someone, about whom he cares deeply, regarding his or her next partner. The title should be sung as a desperate plea, not a moody, almost sullen imperative. Jones does better on peppier songs where his melodic guitar can lift everyone’s spirits.

Says Rowland on his website biography, “Growing up in the 60s, I first fell in love with the blues when I heard John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton. . .and I still have my original mono copy framed on the wall! I was stunned and wanted to know where this music came from. We used to get LP’s of Robert Johnson and Big Bill Broonzy out of the public library – and then there were the great blues tours with five or six top acts on one bill! We were so lucky!

“My plan last year was to go back to basics – probably  just guitar and voice.  I began 2020 with a gig at The Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness, which I recorded  just to have record of it, but I was so pleased with it that with a bit of fettling in the hands of Mark Lewis, I had a new album to which I gave the wildly imaginative title Rowland Jones – Live.”

Imagine this CD not as a sell-out concert meant to inspire hundreds to play their own blues, but an intimate conversation between Jones and his listeners. He means to reach you and teach you what the blues is about, not just grandstand for the benefit of social and other media. Acoustic solo blues puts one on a high wire, and Rowland, for the most part, keeps his equilibrium.

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