Got an album you stick on at times, that isn’t so downright irresistible that it has you singing your head off or doing bad dancing around the living room, but it’s still really good? I don’t mean just okay. I mean dependably, enjoyably good. I think High Temperature, the new album from Canadian blues guitarist and singer JW-Jones, may well fall into that category.
|JW Jones - knows his way around a guitar|
For a start, it features a good range of well-crafted, varied songs. Produced by Grammy Award winner Colin Linden, also musical director of the TV series Nashville, it’s perhaps natural that its core it has a trio of country-tinged songs. ‘Away Too Long’ leads the way with its bright vibe and twangy guitar licks, followed by ‘Same Mistakes’, with its neat lyrics and nice organ work, and then the more reflective song of resignation ‘Leave Me Out’. The latter features appealing piano from Kevin McKendree and a dash of lap steel, while Jones nails the storytelling country-style vocal. He may not have an outstanding voice, but what he’s got he uses well, with personality and the ability to sell a song.
There are more hints of country elsewhere, but it’s not all Nashville-style. Far from it. Opener ‘The Price You Pay’ meanders and splutters into life in a distinctly Stonesy fashion, and maintains that mood with bursts of honky tonk piano and a decidedly Keef-like solo. Closer ‘Wham’ is a different proposition, an instrumental that recalls Stevie Ray Vaughan’s ‘Travis Walk’ – a bit of a throwaway ending, in truth, fun though it is.
In between, the title track is a lightweight but enjoyable swinging shuffle, nicely driven along by drummer Bryan Owings, and featuring a great, old-fashioned rock’n’roll solo from Jones, with some jokey asides. In contrast ‘Who I Am’ is a cool and introspective tale of a tough childhood and the positive influences that resulted in some solid adult values. Autobiographical or not, it’s well put together lyrically, with reflective yet expansive guitar work played over swells of organ. ‘Midnight Blues’, meanwhile, is an upbeat piece of bluesy rock’n’roll’n’pop with a catchy riff, and wouldn’t sound out of place on Samantha Fish’s Sixties R’n’B homage Chills & Fever.
Down the stretch there’s more variety in the form of ‘Already Know’, with its Motown-ish soul-pop verses, and Jones trying out a falsetto vocal to good effect. Better still, ‘Where Do You Think I Was’ is an ironic road song over a Lizzy-style stop-time riff, winking at perceptions of the glamour of touring.
As you should have gathered by now, Jones peppers this material with entertaining guitar work, convincingly firing off licks in a range of different styles – makes me wish I’d caught him live a year or so back, when I last had the chance. A couple of the thirteen songs may not add much to the equation, but overall High Temperature – naff title by the way – is a good album. A genuinely, enjoyably good album.
High Temperature is released on Solid Blues Records on 20 October 2017.