Monday, May 29, 2023

JW-Jones - Everything Now

He’s an engaging little fella, JW-Jones.  The fresh-faced Canadian is a talented songwriter, with a zinging guitar style that reflects his study of blues greats.  And these traits are well to the fore on his latest album Everything Now.
‘Keeping Me Up’, for example, is a neat little tune with the protagonist relating the tale of a sleepless night listening to his partner’s enigmatic sleep-talking.  It comes dressed in some crunchy guitar over smacking drums and bopping bass, with some satisfyingly squelchy guitar
JW-Jones goes happily double denim
Pic by Mark Maryanovich
breaks as a bonus.  The following ‘Papa’s In The Pen’ is also good stuff, but in a contrasting vein, as Jones draws on his own troubled childhood – as he did with ‘Who I Am’ on his 2017 High Temperature outing - to describe parents who are “Not your average father figure, not your average heroine”, set to broody backing that opens in cinematic, Morrisons-ish fashion before settling into off-kilter riffing and rumbling bass.  Jones delivers the vocal with the conviction you’d expect, and his squealing lead guitar is equally characterful.
His way with a personal story is also evident on ‘When You Left’, a convincing pen picture of the feel of a suddenly empty house, inspired by the death of Jones’ mother.  The words and music combine to conjure up the atmosphere, with mournful commentary from the Texas Horns adding to the vibe, while Jones adds some pin-sharp, pinging guitar.  The chorus could be more impactful though, and in fact as intriguing and well played as several of these songs are, they’re often lacking a bit in the hook department.
Nevertheless, the guest appearance by Jimmie Vaughan on the tootling, toe-tapping blues of ‘Take Your Time’ is worth the admission.  It’s lightweight but pleasant, with Vaughan delivering a brittle, jangling solo before he and Jones get down to trading some licks in an entertaining, keep-you-guessing fashion.  ‘To Tell You The Truth (I Lied)’ is a slow blues that feels like it’s arrived from yesteryear via some time tunnel, but works well with its minimal approach on the opening verse, all chiming guitar and trills of piano and organ courtesy of producer and multi-instrumentalist Gordie Johnson.  It comes with another interesting lyric, a warped, sparse solo from Jones, and some sweeping, romantic strings to increase the sense of drama towards the end.
Elsewhere though, the generally sunny vibe sometimes leans a bit too far towards airy blue-eyed soul, as on ‘My Luck’, its virtual sequel ‘It’s Not Raining In LA’ (which gains most of its interest from some clever allusions to ‘California Dreaming’), and the rather too-sweet-to-be-wholesome ‘I Choose You’.
The closing ‘Good To Be True’ rather sums things up.  There’s a snappy, perky vibe once again, and lots of buzzing, fuzzing guitar tones to pique the interest, and some muscle is flexed along the way to underpin an all too brief exchange of tasty guitar between Jones and Gordie Johnson.  But when you get down to it, the song lacks the grabber of a hook that it really needs.
Everything Now is a likeable album, with good musicianship to appreciate all round, not least the nimble fretwork of JW-Jones, who also underlines his storytelling credentials on the best songs here.  But on a few tunes there’s just a bit too much of a lightly funky, happy-go-lucky kinda thing going on - which admittedly suits Jones' light, breezy voice - when a few more sharp angles wouldn’t go amiss.  Maybe next time JW-Jones will pull out all the stops he’s capable of.
Everything Now
 is out now on Solid Blues Records, distributed by Stony Plain.

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