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JW-Jones – Seventh Hour

Solid Blues Records (Crosscut in Europe)

10 tracks – 36.39 minutes

JW-Jones is a Canadian blues guitarist and singer who has started to gain recognition in the States with a series of albums that featured some of the biggest names in the blues – Charlie Musselwhite, Kim Wilson, Hubert Sumlin, Junior Watson and Little Charlie Baty. Across his six previous albums he has produced a wide range of material from swinging big band sounds to classic blues but for this seventh album he has gone back to basics, recording almost entirely in a quartet format in his own living room. The band here is JW on guitar and vocals, Jesse Whiteley on keyboards, Jeff Asselin on drums and Marc Decho on bass (upright and electric). The only significant input from outside the band is steel guitar by Jeremy Wakefield on two cuts. Eight of the tracks were written by JW, three in collaboration with Tim Wynne-Jones, the two covers coming from the songbooks of Little Milton and Roy Orbison.

Listeners are grabbed by the throat from the start by opener “Ain’t Gonna Beg” with its pounding drums, ringing guitar and strong vocal. As those of us who have enjoyed JW’s material before know he is very good at writing hook-laden songs and this is another and JW’s stinging solo is a perfect fit for the song. “Let It Go” follows, another uptempo number which might have worked well with a horn section but here it is the B3 which drives the melody along. “In A Song” is clever, a song that catches your attention: the girl who has ended their relationship is told that she may well reappear in a future song! I particularly liked the way that the rhythm changes as the band moves from verse to chorus. “You Got Caught” is a more sparse arrangement and also the bluesiest track on the disc so far, with some stellar guitar playing in the solo.

“All Over Again” is a fast-paced tune with another catchy refrain. Here the guitar and arrangement is almost pop, a notion emphasised by the organ solo but countermanded by the guitar which is far tougher than the rest of the song – an interesting contrast. “Heartbreaker” whips along at terrific pace with some jazzy chording from JW and steel guitar in support, much more of a jump style than what has come before. The pace slows a little for “Do For You” as JW asks what he can do for his girl: possibilities include climbing the Eiffel Tower, shooting Niagara Falls and crossing the Kalahari desert in the full noon sun, any of which JW will do for her love. More strong guitar features in the middle solo which made me think of Otis Rush. “What Is Real” is a gentle piece, a story about keeping life in perspective, taking its inspiration from the tale of a couple who won the lottery and gave the money to charity. Musically this is the quietest tune on the album with the main instrumental focus being JW’s acoustic guitar, acoustic bass and gentle organ.

The two covers appear towards the end of the album. Little Milton and Oliver Sain’s “I’m Tryin’” is given a fine reading with JW’s guitar ringing out and his vocal delivering the familiar lyrics well. Roy Orbison and Sam Phillips’ “So Long I’m Gone” goes way back to Roy’s early days at Sun Records and has a suitably rockabilly feel with JW’s twangy guitar and Jeremy Wakefield’s steel guitar adding the touch of country that suits the song.

Although the appearance of famous guests on some of JW’s earlier albums was great, this latest CD is none the worse for simply concentrating on JW’s talents as writer, singer and guitarist. I remain amazed that he is not better known in the States: for me this is another fine addition to his discography.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He also travels to the States most years to see live blues music and enjoyed the Tampa Bay Blues Festival in April.

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