Midnight Memphis Sun
(Ruff, 2010)

JW-Jones' 2010 Midnight Memphis Sun is really a feel-good album more than anything else, though it provides a number of tracks that are worth a few extra listens.

The obvious standout is his duet with legendary guitarist Hubert Sumlin, of Howlin' Wolf fame, titled "Howlin' With Hubert." From the get-go, "Off the Market" is an upbeat ditty that shows the deterrence from the classic days of blues, while "Kissin' in Memphis" is a bit more back to the roots, featuring a wailing harmonica accompanying Jones.

While some, including this humble reviewer, feel Jones' vocals are a bit too soft and polished for the blues scene, his guitar-playing keeps pace with Sumlin on a number of tracks. This being said, it could easily be argued that his version of Bryan Adams' "Cuts Like a Knife" is worlds above the original, if only for the kickin' guitar solos.

My only qualm with the album is the vocals; not only does Jones sound too produced for the genre of music he plays, he lacks the soul that so many blues greats maintain. While the music is something to be admired (Charlie Musselwhite's harp playing makes just about every song he's featured on), JW-Jones just sounds too laid back and joyous for the blues. For example, the song "I Don't Go for That" is an ass-kicking demonstration of instrumental ability; the only room for significant improvement is the voice is painfully soft. Similar to how Jonny Lang slightly altered his voice for the "Lie to Me" album, Jones needs to learn how to add an edge to certain songs that shows the listener he understands the sentiment behind the blues.

Otherwise, this is an all-around stellar album that starts and ends on positive notes, with a somewhat forgettable middle section.

music review by
Bryan Frantz

26 February 2011

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