Wednesday, December 6, 2017

JW-Jones - Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 3 December 2017

JW-Jones knows his onions, as they probably never say in his hometown of Ottawa.  Spruce looking in his shirt and tie, in a manner Muddy and the Wolf would have approved of, he and his band display an intuition for the blues, in numerous hues and shades, that guarantees a good night out.
They kick off with the energetic Lonnie Mack instrumental ‘Wham’, its influence on SRV clear, before getting into a brace of originals from his latest album High Temperature.  On the title track he shows off his ability to coax delightfully wonky notes from his gold top Les
JW-Jones - covers plenty of blues bases
Paul, before taking ‘Price You Pay’, and kicking its ass in a live setting by applying some very Stones-like grit to the riff.
Having introduced his own style, he and his compadres then apply themselves to some serious workouts around covers of a couple of Kings, namely BB and Albert. On the former he capitalises on some well jazzy bass and drums from Laura Greenberg and Will Laurin respectively, displaying effortlessly good tone with both finger picking and a pick, and conjuring up a fiery, swinging solo.  On the latter – ‘You’re Gonna Need Me’, I reckon – he then reinforces his command of the masters with a fluid and at times sotto voce (ie quiet, folks) solo in the midst of a chunky sound aided by a great bass groove from Greenberg.
‘Watch Your Step’ is a slice of rock’n’roll over a syncopated rhythm and heavy, rumbling bass, with Laurin and Greenberg, respectively, well in synch.  But as the set wears on Jones’ command of the genre becomes steadily more apparent, whether it be the imaginative solo he revs up to big proportions on a Charlie Musselwhite and Ben Harper, the slinkiness of ‘Some Mistakes’, or the heaviness he brings to Buddy Guy’s ‘Tell Me What’s Inside Of You’.  Jones covered the latter on his 2014 Belmont Boulevard, and the heaviness is entirely appropriate given the extent to which Buddy drew on the riff from Freddie King’s ‘Going Down’, but he gives it his own spin here with some more interesting guitar wrangling over bubbly, funky bass from Greenberg.
As the set progresses they loosen it up more, with ‘Magic West Side Boogie’ developing from a spangly intro into some seriously chug-along boogie and a touch of Dick Dale, while Laura Greenberg’s bass skills become steadily more evident.  Little wonder that the lady is on the end of a Maple Blues Award nomination.  Jones, meanwhile, takes the opportunity to segue into a ‘Voodoo Chile’ orientated solo and some more Jimi style avenues, conjuring up some shimmering sounds and good use of harmonics, before returning explosively to the tune at hound.
‘French Toast’ is an instrumental that allows them to have some fun, swapping instrumental
Laura Greenberg and JW-Jones - who plays what around here?
parts around, with Jones on drums and Greenberg striking a suitably rock chick pose on guitar in between paying homage to great rock riffs and even TV themes we have loved, to the evident delight of some of the punters.  Some behind the heads guitar playing from both Jones and Greenberg
They encore with the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ ‘Rock With Me Tonight’, on which Jones again offers up some tasteful playing to round off proceedings, following on from an impressive bass solo from Greenberg.
JW-Jones is a real student of the blues, and it’s apparent in the variety and wit of his guitar work.  He and his band put on a seriously good show.  Personally I think that if he played some more of his own songs towards the end instead of doing a bit of a blues-rock jukebox, then it would be even better.  But that’s just my preference – there were plenty in this crowd who lapped up Jones' performance regardless.
Support comes in the form of local two piece outfit Dixie Fried, with guitarist/vocalist Craig Lamie and drummer John Murphy going on a tour of North Mississippi hill country blues.  Lamie produces some satisfying guitar passages, picking bass notes with his thumb while playing over drumming from Murphy that’s often minimal.
There’s a touch of the White Stripes ‘getting away with it’ philosophy as they get into a Junior Kimbrough-referenced song with a Celtic lyrical twist, called ‘That Old Black And White’, which has nice rippling guitar over a simple kick drum beat.  Occasionally things feel a little bit stiff, reminiscent of the adage “it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”  But on the whole Dixie Fried show a commendable readiness to explore their very own slipping and sliding Mississippi vocation, with some real drive and grit on their set closer – and enough cowbell to make a hit of ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’.

Read the exclusive Blues Enthused interview with JW-Jones here.
And read the review of his latest album High Temperature here.

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