Someone who’s walked a mile or two in sturdy shoes…
Released on Friday 20 October 2017
Review by Paul H Birch
Canadian singer-songwriter and blues guitarist J.W. Jones’ last album, 2014’s Belmont Boulevard was nominated for a JUNO Award alongside other accolades and now, just prior to a November UK tour, he’s released his follow-up, High Temperate. Produced by Colin Linden, musical arranger for the Nashville TV series some of the tracks featured do pick up on that country sound, with a little roots feel in there too, while the blues tunes are clear cut andlues tunes are clear cut with the overall appeal of this record possibly edging it bets on mainstream appeal.
And that’s no bad thing.
High Temperate features mostly storytelling narratives, with more breakups than makeups on the romance side of things. Throughout there’s a reasoned direct stoic approach to sensitivity given and a clear diction – not too far removed from a dry-sounding Michael Bublé, a fellow Canadian – expressing those feelings; with lines you will recall easily and possibly find yourself singing along to. These are not your young man’s blues more those of someone who’s walked a mile or two in sturdy shoes and while far from being indifferent is mature enough to know how much one man can change the world. To that end, the album is more about the songs than the originality of the music.
Linden has gathered a tight session band to perform on the record. Bass player Dominic Davis’ broad CV encompasses both Jack White and Tom Jones, keyboard player Kevin McKendree’s played with Brian Setzer and drummer Bryan Owings tops them all having worked with Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant. Jones’ touring bass player Laura Greenberg is also featured and Liam Russell adds vocal harmonies.
Opening number ‘Price You Pay’ sizes the situation up with a lazy blues lick before shaking up to a Rolling Stones vibe to deliver a smooth voiced rock ’n’ boogie number with a Chucky Berry style double note guitar solo thrown in for good effect. Jaida Dreyer adds female harmonies to the following ‘How Many Hearts’, a song she co-write with Linden, that gently bumps without the grind but is rather infectious regardless with catchy vocals, repetitive hooks and silver tinted guitar notes sprinkled in.
Title track ‘High Temperature’ is 12 bar blues of the old school variety, with tinkling piano and extended walkabout solo. It builds near the end but has nothing new to say, while the same might be said for the bright and summery ‘Away Too Long’. Far more intriguing is the first person revelations of ‘Who I Am’ as Jones outlines his faults over this slow blues laden with lyrical guitar and an unusual bass line beat as the organ stirs gently through.
‘Murder In My Heart For The Judge’ returns us pleasantly to some bump and a bit of grind for a blues pop number featuring some nicely distorted guitars. It’s reminiscent of both Huey Lewis & The News and Lewis’s earlier band Clover. ‘Same Mistakes’ follows like an early 70s Drifters number with hooks and grooves while gently rocking and working up to a rather raging solo. Likewise the rocking upbeat ‘Midnight Blues’ features some excellent brash guitar wherein the chorus chords set up a nice drum roll, and there’s a high end pitched pinching solo worthy of note.
The slow dance blues of ‘Leave Me Out’ Slow offers a country twang and others among the latter half of this album will follow suit. ‘Already Know’ has all the charm of a Midwest townhouse garnered with a country picket fence but it’s a bitter sweet tale with an effective use of varying pitched vocal harmonies with lyrical guitar solo extending out of the main song leaving you with a desire to take your partner and slow dance with her. Meanwhile ‘Out In The Woods’ features a slow driven drum beat withy an eerie atmospheric feel and megaphone distance voices over this swampy blues with a crisp guitar sound hovering over it like a hornet.
However, just as a theme is developing we’re thrown a couple of curveballs with the proud and loud resonating boogie rock of ‘Where Do You Think I Was’ coming on like Bad Company rearranging the chords to Clapton’s ‘Forever Man’, to be followed by the album’s final number ‘Wham’ – An instrumental workout of blues and rock ‘n roll boogie that at times sounds like Hank Marvin playing Freddy ‘King’s Hideaway’ that is a most curious number to end on. Me, I’d have front loaded these tracks, piling on the rockier tracks at the start, easing into the more country styled tunes for a more mellow introspective conclusion, but what do I know I’m not an award winning producer.
Overall, some good songs, with tunes that come on like a mellow Fabulous Thunderbirds dipping their toes in the waters of a modern Americana sound.
- Price you pay
- How many Hearts
- High Temperature
- Murder In My Heart For The Judge
- Who I Am
- Away Too Long
- Same Mistakes
- Leave Me Out
- Midnight Blues
- Out In The Woods
- Already Know
- Where Do You Think I Was