Breaking the Ice
By T.E. Mattox
anadian JW-Jones is right in the middle of a North American tour of
biblical proportions. Forty days and forty nights loaded with non-stop
blues that has torn gapping holes through the U.S.- Canadian border.
Yet, Jones can't seem to stop smiling. Along with band mates, bassist
Laura Greenburg and drummer Jamie Holmes, the Ottawa guitarist is determined
to prove to everyone north of the equator, JW-Jones is NOT your average,
run-of-the-mill blues trio.
Jones' says his love of the blues began while still
in his teens, but readily admits after seeing B.B.
King play live, "It changed my life." In 2000,
with renewed focus JW made his recording debut with the release of 'Defibrillatin.'
Thirteen years and six albums later the current tour is in support of
his latest project; appropriately entitled, 'Seventh Hour.'
The bands constant travel schedule has paid dividends attracting both
national and international fans and as of this writing, garnered an
amazing 11 Maple Blues Award nominations. An award Jones took top honors
for in 2004 as the Electric Act of the Year.
Greenburg, Jones and Holmes. Photo
courtesy of JW-Jones
On the bands last night in Southern California, Jones
took some time to talk about his road, his friends and the people that
have helped shape his blues.
Let's talk about the diversity in your music. "I
just like so many styles of blues." JW told me. "I
love Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Jimmie Vaughan. You
know, they're into all that swamp stuff and the Gulf blues but I also
like the swingier stuff like Little Charlie and the NightCats. I love
it all; I don't want to play ONLY Chicago blues, I don't want to ONLY
play Texas blues
I just love it all. We try to make it all wrap
up into the same kind of package where you can dance to it and have
a good time."
I was a little surprised that you started as a drummer?
"I started on drums when I was thirteen or fourteen. You know
I was listening to Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and all that classic rock
stuff (laughs) when I played drums. And then I started listening
to blues and it's obviously an easy path to go from classic rock to
see where they got it all from."
You've always said B.B King had a big impact on you.
"Yeah, I saw him when I was 15 and it changed my life! (laughing)
"I've never played with him; I've met him, and hung out with
him on his tour bus a few times."
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
we did a song called,
'Howlin' with Hubert' and we got to go back and forth
and trade licks. It was amazing."
on recording with Hubert Sumlin
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Let's talk about the first album, specifically the title,
'Defibrillatin?' "Well, actually since my grandfather
was helping me out with that one, he'd been through some heart surgeries,
and I wanted to start a different theme. You know, because Albert Collins
has the 'Ice' theme? And because I love his instrumentals and stuff,
I wanted to start my own theme. So I started that kind of medical thing.
There's 'Defibrillatin' on that one, the next one has 'Flatline.'
The one after that has 'Code Blue,' the one after that has 'Parasomnia'
which is me sleep-talking."
The JW-Jones band unleashing some 'Critical Care.'
Photo: Yachiyo Mattox
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Maple Blues Awards (Canada's equivalent of our BMA's)
have recognized you multiple times over the years
that must feel
good. "Well, we won it in 2004, we've been nominated I think,
11 times. It's great to be recognized, you know?"
Looking at your discography I was surprised at the number
of people you've recorded with
on 'Bogart's Bounce'
you feature both Kim Wilson and Gene Taylor. What was that experience
like? "Amazing! Kim's always been one of my biggest influences.
Not just his singing and his musicianship but also the way he leads
a band. And he's a great guy; he helped me out a lot in the beginning.
Being on that album was huge. A huge foot into
it helped me get
into the U.S."
You've also played with an impressive group of West
Coast players, Richard Innes, Junior Watson, Little Charlie Baty, Rod
Piazza and then there's a guy from down in Texas, named Anson Funderburgh?
"Oh man, I met him when I was 17 years old. He brought me backstage
and all my friends and we got to know each other and he was just super
nice. I played with him and the Rockets. I played with Sam Myers probably
for two or three weeks in a row in Dallas, Texas when I was down there
once. I ended up on stage with him almost every other night. And that
was a great experience too."
Talk a little about the project you're currently touring
behind, 'Seventh Hour.' "'Seventh Hour' is our newest release.
It's almost all original, we have two covers on there, one by Little
Milton called, 'I'm Trying' and one by Roy Orbison called, 'So
Long, I'm Gone.' And the difference in this one we just wanted to
change it up and not have any guests on it. Just kind of do it with
the touring band and it's different from you know, your typical traditional
blues album. I was kind of branching out a little bit. I wanted to write
songs and let them come out the way I wrote them rather than force them
into sounding like a Chicago blues song or something."
'Seventh Hour' CD (Design by Cyrus Hogg Test
Photo by Mitch Lenet Spyglass
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
You added horns to create a much fuller, big band sound
to your album, 'Kissing in 29 days.' You also invited
another legendary musician, David 'Fathead' Newman into play. (This
brings another big smile to Jones' face.) "Went down to upstate
New York and recorded with him." JW says. "He cut his
solos in like, ten minutes. We were done in ten minutes, so I just asked
him to play it again, you know?" (laughing) "Just to
record them again so we could hang out and listen to him. Man
And we can't forget to mention fellow Canadian, Colin
James. "I just ran into him this summer, actually. I was texting
him the other day. He's one of my favorite singers, period
I just love his voice so much and he was on a record we did, that Kim
Wilson produced, called 'My Kind of Evil,' in 2004. Yeah man,
a super awesome guy and a huge star in Canada."
What was it like to work with the late Hubert
Sumlin? "I played with him in Saskatoon. I only played with
him 'live' once, but of course he was a guest on our 'Midnight Memphis
Sun' album which we recorded at Sun Studios. And on that album we
did a song called, 'Howlin' with Hubert' and we got to go back
and forth and trade licks. It was amazing."
That recording also featured 'Memphis' Charlie
Musselwhite. "Yep, yep. He was on that same record too.
A wonderful guy
I always wonder how many people catch that lyric
in 'Kissing in Memphis?' I said, 'Memphis Charlie is wailin,' wailin'
down the street.' And I wonder if people ever catch that?"
They will now.
JW-Jones album cover
You played at
Buddy Guy's club in Chicago
what was that experience like?
"Well when we played at Buddy Guy's
he was there, in Chicago.
We played 'Snatch it Back and Hold It,' in front of him, which
is pretty scary. I put it on YouTube, you can catch it there."
(I jokingly note that playing a Junior Well's classic
in Buddy's club takes some rather large and brassy
in front of him!" JW repeats and nods
his head. "I wanted to do it. I wanted him to know how much
I appreciated his influence. And after the set he said, 'It sounded
really good.' And he said to me, 'I really love the way you do that
B.B. King stuff.' And I said, 'Oh, I tried to do some Buddy Guy in there,
too.' And he said, 'Aw, it's all B.B. and T-Bone.' I thought Jimi Hendrix
might beg to differ, but he was really sweet and really nice."
You not only write and perform
but also produce?
"I produced all of them except for one. The one that Kim
(Wilson) produced. I don't know, I mean I really enjoyed the experience
with Kim and I learned a lot. We needed that at that time, the direction,
but I have pretty good ears for what I want to hear. I know what I want
I don't know it's hard to explain. I know what I want
and I can play with it, till I get it."
JW-Jones and a fan. Photo: Yachiyo
Little wonder your music is so diverse, considering
your wealth of influences... that list is like the who's who in Blues
and continues to grow. (JW is nodding his head) "I mean, all
the old blues guys, of course. You know, B.B. King, T-Bone, Albert King,
Albert Collins, Freddie King and the newer guys Little Charlie (Baty),
Junior Watson, Anson Funderburgh, everyone I've worked with, that's
been on any of the records
have been big influences."
Jones adds, "I don't think I can touch any of those guys
I'm thinking JW-Jones fans would probably argue that
A special shout out and thank
you to Straight Up Blues Productions and my buddy, Art Martel
for turning me on to, and sharing the blues talents of JW-Jones. It
is much appreciated my friend.
Piazza and the Mighty Flyers; Life
on the Road (with Charlie Musselwhite); BB
'Big Daddy' Kinsey and 'Pinetop' Perkins; Charlie
Musselwhite Returns to Southern California; On
the Road with Buddy Guy