JW Jones,
Belmont Boulevard
(Blind Pig, 2014)

In his native Canada, JW Jones is already a star -- seven albums released, a dozen Maple Blues Award nominations and accolades in the national press. He tours internationally and, here in the States, Blues Revue said his guitar style is "a fluid anagram of T-Bone Walker's big, bright chords, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson's slashing leads, and Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown's jazzy sting."

Belmont Avenue is his first American album, and it shows that before long Jones is probably going to be as well-known here as he is up north. His guitar playing is amazing, filled with amazing leads, razor-sharp runs and turnarounds as complicated as most people's leads. His singing is more than serviceable and his band lives up to the compliment Dan Ackroyd paid them when he called them an amazing blues band. JW Jones and his band drive the music as if it were a getaway car.

For his first American album, though, Jones said he wanted to break out of his "comfort zone musically and lyrically, working with a big producer and creating a high energy experience that matches our live show, and I knew Tom [Hambridge] was the man to make that happen." So he enlisted Hambridge as producer.

This is one listener's opinion but I'm not sure that was the best idea. Out of the 12 songs on the CD, two were written by Hambridge and eight were co-written by Jones and Hambridge, and therein lies my problem with the album. Songs like "Blue Jean Jacket" (which is about how wonderful it was to be a teenager and hang out with girls in denim), "What Would Jimmie Do?" and "If It Feels This Good Tomorrow" are pretty much disposable. Listening to a beautifully produced, magically played and enthusiastically sung mediocre song is still listening to a mediocre song.

Maybe a little less outside producer would help. Maybe Jones needs to take more control, be more insistent in guiding his own destiny. His American debut is fine and should garner him a lot of attention but, as I listen, I hear a much stronger CD buried under the surface.

That's the album I want to listen to.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

28 February 2015

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