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Lloyd Jones – Highway Bound

Underworld Records

16 Tracks, 45:06

Lloyd Jones is a bit of an open secret in the blues and roots music world. Charlie Musselwhite and Joe Louis Walker are his friends. He’s toured with Earl King, Big Mama Thornton, Otis Clay, Etta James and many more. He’s shared the stage with legends like Albert Collins, Taj Mahal, B.B. King, Dr. John, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Robert Cray openly praises him. Coco Montoya and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, among others, have recorded his songs; Coco’s version of “Love Gotcha” has appeared in HBO’s True Blood series and Lloyd Jones’ own “Highway Rider” has been heard during A&E’s Dog The Bounty Hunter reality series. And, Jones is a fixture of Delbert McClinton’s annual Sandy Beaches Cruise. So who is Lloyd Jones?

Lloyd Jones hails from Portland, Oregon and has been a part of the west coast music scene for 30 years. Jones won 30 Muddy Awards from the Cascade Blues Association and in 2007 he received their Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. He usually performs with his band and plays fluid electric blues and R&B. Highway Bound is his first “solo” recording. On Highway Bound, we hear only Lloyd Jones’ gritty, whisky soaked vocals and exquisite acoustic picking with occasional sit-ins from Charlie Musselwhite and Curtis Salgado and one solo electric romp through Robert Johnson’s “Last Fair Deal Gone Down.”

Jones effortlessly slips a few originals in among the classic blues standards covered here and in the tradition of traveling minstrels of the early 20th Century, Jones demonstrates his mastery of several styles of music, not just blues. Traveling musicians like Skip James, Robert Johnson, and Big Bill Broonzy had to know the popular tunes or they wouldn’t get work. Jones clearly understands the tradition and mixes blues, jazz, folk and pop style picking occasionally in the same song. Some songs, like “Key To The Highway,” he rearranges for solo guitar, making it a less jaunty, swaggering shuffle. He makes into a more linear rhythm and showcases his picking skills. On Blind Willie McTell’s “Broke Down Engine,” Lloyd’s picking and weary vocal delivery conjure images of a man on a dusty country road in the sweltering heat with a week’s pay burning a hole in the pocket holding his bandana. He’s flagging a ride and looking for a cure for the blues. Like the minstrel thumbing a ride, the guitar lines are constantly in motion, propelling the songs forward. He is Highway Bound after all.

Not surprisingly, traveling is a common theme that runs through the Highway Bound like the I-5 cuts through the continent from Mexico to Canada. From the direct references of bouncy opening original “Travelin’ On” and Bill Bill Broonzy’s “Southbound Train” to the late night musings of a road weary travelers on “Good Night Irene” and W.C. Handy’s “Make Me A Pallet On The Floor.” There’s even a bit of a tongue-in-cheek traveling salesman blues in “Ice Cream Man.” Lloyd drives the truck while Charlie Musselwhite rings the bell and dishes up tasty harp to the regular stops.

Throughout Highway Bound Lloyd Jones demonstrates his love of these blues. He inhabits the songs. Modern listeners are accustomed to high energy, electrified full-band bombast but Jones takes us back in time, to the origin of this music, performing the songs in the manner in which they were probably conceived: by a singer and their guitar on the road somewhere between Hopeless and Last Nickel. The songs needed to be portable but had to remain active enough to hold an audience’s attention on a lone musician. Jones manages just that with his percussive attack, walking basslines, foot stomping percussive accompaniment and a vocal delivery that wraps the whole thing in a burlap sack, throws it over a shoulder and carries it on down the line. Hopefully this Highway Bound musician will be coming to your town soon. Until then you’ve got this remarkable disc to soothe your aching soul.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

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