Experience The Canadian Rockers
Don’t let your blues travels omit a show by the ferocious and entertaining trio led by J W Jones. Pete and Glenn Sargeant saw them twice on their recent tour here and other JLTT personnel will testify to their power and range. Looking like a cousin of Alan Cummings and Pee Wee Herman, Jones dresses like a 40s matinee movie star but wields a mean Les Paul. Here he fields a set of questions from JLTT…
- Tell us about your latest album please – seems as though you wish to emphasise your songwriting as well as ensemble playing?
Belmont Boulevard is my 8th studio release, recorded in Nashville with Grammy Award winning producer, Tom Hambridge. Tom and I co-wrote a bunch of the songs together, and he really helped me get out of my comfort zone and try new things as well as dig deeper into more personal topics for the lyrics. I am thrilled with how it turned out, and it really brought us to another level with being nominated for JUNO and Maple Blues Awards, and hitting the Billboard Top 10 Blues charts in the USA.
- You receive two free tickets to a festival – where would you prefer this to be? And what three acts would you like to see?
It would be in Switzerland, Pete – by the water somewhere, and the bands would be Jimmie Vaughan, Keith Urban, and Robert Cray.
- The radio is playing…what song would you cross the room to turn UP and what song would you cross the room to turn OFF
There aren’t a lot of blues songs on the radio these days, but if there was, I’d say since I am on a Little Walter kick these days, I’d make a move to turn that up. If it was to turn it off, it would be when country music artists try to rap. It’s apparently called “hick-hop”, and it’s one of the worst musical things I’ve ever heard.
- Which song – any artist, any title – would have made a fine single release ? IF it had been a SINGLE! – why do you think this?
The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Wait On Time.
- What draws you to the Les Paul for stage use? Is yours customised in any way?
It’s been my main guitar for about seven years now. The first time I realized there was such thing as a chambered (lighter) Les Paul with a smaller neck (60’s instead of 50s style), I fell in love. The only customization is that I have a push/pull tone pot that allows my pickups to be in-phase or out-of-phase with each other for that weird throaty tone.
- Whose strings? And what tunings? Maybe you dropped the bottom E one time?
D’Addarrio strings and I just switched from .011’s to .010’s. I didn’t lose any tone at all, and it sure is easier on the hands! I use drop-D tuning (E string only) for the song “Watch Your Step”.
- Boz Scaggs and Bonnie Raitt record a duet and you lead the band – what song do you choose for them to sing? Who do you bring in to play on the session?
You’ve Got What It Takes is a great duet. I’d have Larry Taylor on bass, Richard Innes on drums (RIP), my favourite rhythm section of all time.
- An acoustic gem? What song/tune and who by? What’s the appeal?
Anything by Lightning Hopkins. What I love about him is that he changes the chords when he feels the change, and it’s rarely in any kind of specific pattern. That’s living/playing in the moment at it’s finest.
- There seems to be chunk of Freddie King in your exuberant style – do you have a favourite album of his? I find many players are finding their way to the Shelter label stuff…
You’ve got me here! Let’s Hide Away and Dance Away with Freddie King has a ton of my favourite instrumentals. I think my favourite is The Stumble. Though he is a huge influence, it’s rare that people notice it enough to comment. After opening bunch of shows for Johnny Winter, HE told me he liked my Freddie King style of playing. That was so sweet to hear from such a deep player that studied it all.
- Name an actor or actress who made a listenable song recording – and what’s the appeal?
We’ve had some actors join us on stage before, my pal Dan Aykroyd, and Jeremy Renner sang with me once in Edmonton. I think Hugh Laurie is a real deal blues guy, and also a great actor.
- How overall was your rocking trio received in the UK? I saw two shows and they were markedly different from each other!
I felt like the overall buzz on the tour was our best yet. As we went along, more and more fans who had just discovered us were making trips to come see us multiple times. Social media was blowing up, and we had Joe Bonamassa’s publicist, Peter Noble, commenting and bringing a lot of attention to the band on Facebook. I really noticed how reserved the UK people are during the shows, but afterwards, they all wanted CDs and photographs, so it was an interesting look into the culture over there.
- Which artist did you go to see perform with low expectations but ended up impressed? Where and when was this?
I didn’t have low expectations by any means, but a band that blew me away last summer was seeing the Rolling Stones for the first time. I just couldn’t believe how tight they were, the playing, stage presence, musicianship, the whole deal was amazing. I assumed since they were getting on in years that it would be a lot less rocking, but man it was unbelievable. Anyone that says “they should pack it in” or that they are past their prime is dead wrong. They are IN their prime and delivering, big time.
- JW – has a radio DJ anywhere ( and any era) ever impressed you and if so why?
We have an amazing DJ over here in Canada named Holger Petersen. He is an encyclopedia of blues and roots knowledge. He impresses me every time I hear him or have the opportunity to chat with him.
- Name a recording (an album maybe) that really ‘grew’ on you and has ended up as essential listening? What is it about this recording that you value?
B.B. King – Blues is King. I am so used to saying that Live at the Regal is my favourite record of all time, but I honestly think Blues is King is taking over. I’ve heard them both a million times, but there is something a little deeper and more soulful about BB’s singing and playing on Blues is King. Plus the organ really makes it feel different from the piano on Regal.
- Which are your favourite three venues in Canada at this time? Any reasons for each?
Blues on Whyte in Edmonton – We play six nights in a row, so we really stretch out and try new things each night. This is often where we debut or try new songs or arrangements.
Rainbow Bistro in Ottawa – Our home-town venue, and we always pack the place so the energy is fantastic in there. I love the way the room sounds, and hey, it’s home!
For the third venue, I am just going to say anywhere in Quebec. French audiences are just different. They clap after solos, they soak it all up, and they support the arts more than anywhere else in the country.
- Did you enjoy school?
Pete, I couldn’t wait to get out of school !!
- Same here, I hated it…so which song reminds you of schooldays?
(Sighs) The only enjoyable thing to me was leaving at the end of the day. Back home to the guitar and music! I remember listening to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir every day before school for weeks on end. So if there is one song that reminds me of school, it’s that one.
You can read our review of ‘Belmont Boulevard’ here: http://bit.ly/248kuXi
JW Jones’s new album ‘Belmont Boulevard’ is out now on Blind Pig Records. For more information visit his offiical website here: http://bit.ly/214E8Sc
(All photos supplied by JW Jones. Many thanks to JW Jones and Peter)