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A quick through the archives of the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll will probably say more about how much I respect, enjoy and appreciate the blues than any words I can say. Some of my favorite artists and some of the ones that have had the most influence on me have been blues artists, and even more still are heavily influenced by the blues themselves.
I'm always open to new blues artists, as each person's take on this genre is always unique and always blends new influences with the standard blues format, but there is one this that is constant and that is the emotion in the music.
A few days ago (read: a full week ago) I received an email including a review from Blues Revue and a interview from BlogCritics (an associate of the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll) proclaiming an interest the new take on the "bluez" coming from Billy Jones. I've heard a lot of different takes on blues since I first started listening to the genre, but I had not heard a mix like the grooves by Billy Jones.
On my first listen, the music is definitely compelling with a lot of R&B flavor, soul, and an more urban feel. In fact it can be hard to recognize it as blues if you're more inclined to listen to the rough edged delta sounds that have been around since blues began. I am a huge fan of all forms of blues, but I normally identify with a lot of earthiness that is present in delta blues. That feel is definitely still there in some of Jones's music, but it has a lot more jazz, R&B and especially soul that completely change the feel and put a nice twist on blues that crosses genre boundaries. I hear bits of traditional blues artists but I also wouldn't be surprised to hear a Marvin Gaye cover either. I think he could probably pull off a song or two by Gaye and according to the reviews I've read, he also has been known to cover Prince's "Purple Rain" something I couldn't see more traditional blues artists pulling off.
The songs I've heard range from a more traditional soul feel in "Never Let Go", to a harder blues rock of "Crystal" to the more country tinted blues stomp of "Bluez Comes Callin'". Billy Jones definitely puts his soul into this music as his vocals are a great blend of blues intensity and style with urban soul. The songs are compelling at the very least because they both pay homage to the blues and soul greats, but also because they show a wide range of influences and musical diversity that would probably make for a killer live show. I've listened through the songs shown on the Billy Jones myspace page, a bunch of times now and I like all of them but both "Bluez Comes Callin'" and "Crystal" speak to me a little more, probably because they are the tracks with the least pure modern R&B influence (a genre I can appreciate but never really got into much). There are some moments where I hear a straight soul feel, others remind me so much of another blues great, Robert Cray, and others are just a great blend of multiple genres while still maintaining a great late night, urban club feel.
There is an emphasis on groove and soul, but there is definitely blues undertones throughout everything. The guitar work reminds me a little of Robert Cray again, but also a little B.B. King and that adds to the blues feel. No matter if you want to call it soul, blues, or R&B, Billy Jones can really put some emotion into his music, and as I say all the time, that is what music, and especially blues, is all about.
There is only one thing that I wasn't keen on about these tracks. It's nothing bad about the songwriting or the style, more so I just think the recordings need a grit and sound a little too polished. This doesn't detract from the music, but it does make me think that the band might definitely be better live, which I can believe because I think most blues artists are great on record, but hundreds of times better live.
Overall I think Billy Jones definitely is making some great music worth checking out if you're into blues and especially if you're into soul, but also if you're into more modern R&B. I think fans of all of these genres can probably find something they'll like . I'd be most interested in seeing what Billy Jones and his band do live though as I bet that is a great show to see.
Interestingly enough, I don't know for sure if it was Billy Jones himself who sent me the emails that originally pointed out his music as they were not signed, but if so... Mr. Jones, you're definitely making some great music, thanks for sharing it with me.
Keep up the good work.
Here's Billy Jones's myspace page where you can check out his music: http://myspace.com/billyjonesbluez
Also, here is the Billy Jones website with a little more information: http://www.billy-jones.com/
You can also read the review from BlogCritics here: http://blogcritics.org/archives/2007/04/09/095118.php
And last but not least, if you're interested, you can buy his newest album directly from Amazon here: My Hometown