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"One of the best American singer-songwriters."- Kevin McCarthy - Kevin's Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews

"One of the best songwriters in the indie world." - Jan Best - Independent Songwriter Web Magazine

“JP Jones may well be the best modern folk musician in the country, a man who in the past attracted the ears of giants yet today remains a virtual unknown. With his 12th CD on the way, it’s well past time the light shone on such riveting talent...extraordinarily rewarding fare, easily the best genuine modern folk music I’ve heard in the last 10 years.” - Mark Tucker - OpEdNews.com, feature.   Read a longer article from Mark Tucker at Perfect Sound Forever : part onepart two

“When all is said and done, there are maybe a score of singer-songwriters today who combine deep insight into the human psyche with a broad grasp of history, religion, literature, American mythology and landscape - plus a real genius for writing both words and melodies. JP Jones ought to be counted among them.”     -- Hugh BlumenfeldSing Out!

“JP Jones writes with an intensity and vision that transcends the sound...Jones has a way with words, and he nails them, hammers them, and stretches them, but never minces them.” -- Rich Warren - Sing Out!

“Jones creates songs of world-weary grace and beauty. The vision is dark and diaphanous with disappointment, failed love, put off dreams and atmospherically brilliant evocation. He’s a staccato stiletto to your heart.” -- Mark Gresser - Music Matters Review


Magical Thinking

JP Jones, Folk Rock, and Magical Thinking 

John Paul Jones, saddled with the same name as Led Zeppelin's bassist and thus operating under "JP Jones", is a Rhode Island folk musician and rocker who almost caught the fast track to fame in the 70's. He was signed to the Windfall label, a subsidiary of Columbia Records and home to hard rockers Mountain, but at exactly the wrong time, when Clive Davis & Co. decided they didn't like the upstart venture and buried it, Jones going down with the ship. 

But now, it's 30 years later and the troubadour is one of America's best-kept secrets, a condition hopefully soon to change. He's been issuing CDs regularly and has just now put out his twelfth, Magical Thinking, and not a moment too soon. At a time when damn near every dial position of commercial radio is as gawdawful as ever, this disc is a shining star. Jones is head-shotted on the disc's cover, the weathered countenance of a guy who's seen life and the industry, standing firm without losing his balance, while both took their best shots. There's a hard edge there, just beneath the tentative smile, evincing a musician who's become a bit weary and a lot wiser, imbued with the rough and tumble of making it day to day in a world hostile to loners. 

"A Man Stands Up" opens the CD and gives a broad hint of the soul and 
integrity of the musician-poet's position. A soporific synthesizer floats above Jones' voice and lulls the listener while the lyrics take on an anthemic proportion. The cut's a re-working of a selection from his last CD, Thugs and Lovers, longer and more engaging. In fact, on this release, the composer has chosen to revivify three works from a long catalog, something many Big Time musicians might want to take a cue from. He re-crafts "Prophet in His Prime" as well, from the elder "Jeremiah", newly cutting in zydeco accordion and sounding very Dylan-ish. 

Though Jones wrestles with life, he remains ever the streetwise sage, 
simultaneously the gift and curse heir to the folk tradition. This, however, isn't limited to the painful ruminations standard to the genre, but takes on rather ribald tones whenever it can. "Wreck the Bed", for instance, is an unusually erotic piece, almost nasty here and there while good-natured, playfully lusty: 

I miss your big-girl legs 
I miss your cinnamon grin 
I miss my little fish's kisses 
Down where the waves roll in 

You got somewhere to get to 
You got somethin' to do 
You got somethin' that you got comin' 
And I got somethin' for you 

It proceeds in a shuffling beat, lazy and thick, with airy guitar glances glazing starry borders to the tune's atmosphere. Once or twice, Jones approaches Tin Pan Alley from the Paul Williams sidestreet (think "Old Souls"), penning laments to pain and pleasure in thoughtful drawing-room memories. His voice holds the savor of many antecedents: Dylan foremost but also Mark Knopfler, a tang of Warren Zevon, and a distant growl of Waits, nonetheless his own man through it all. Those vocal chords show they've been through the mill and traveled many nights, but this only lends an expressive uniqueness while displaying emotional vulnerabilities and strengths, the sort of thing folk music thrives on. 

Rebellion is a dominant theme in all of folk and rock, and "That's All 
Right" steps in with a bounce-step, attractive backing vocals bolstering its unusual acceptance of the lone wolf's role: 

They will poke you with an elbow 
They'll punch you with a fist 
And if no label sticks to you 
They'll swear you don't exist 

That's all right 
That's all right 
It's just the way it should be 
That's all right 

The music of all of Magical Thinking is tight while relaxed, showing the easy grace of a professional who very well knows where the pocket is, falling into it every time. Jones continually lets down borders, exposing his heart, ushering listeners into the forgotten realms of life, reflecting on the kaleidoscope we behold from day to day. "Ezmerelda" features what appears to be strings but could be adept synthesizers, a moody tune delivered late at night, pondering the shallow rewards of promiscuity, the bright lights of the fast life. The blunt exposure of a slide to disappointment and pain is tempered by the kindredness the listener him- or herself may have had to the condition at one time or another, the setting sun a metaphor for an approaching wisdom dipped in regret. 

"Sufficient" pulls tempo and spirits back up, a bopping spell of admiration for a woman sitting in the center of the singer's warm regard. The title sabotages society's glamour sickness and invokes the sentiment that we're just what we are and that all of it is quite sufficient. The 15-minute "The Fire and the Rose" closes out the entire disc, trad folk stretched out to Homeric lengths, dropping the fire and thunder that often accompany such opuses, organ propping up the backspaces of a small novel. It signals a return to Dylan and the height of the folk movement, where the psyche of the brazen rock world is reminded of its roots. Appropriate to all Jones' tunes, we're left with wistfulness. 

This is an affecting disc. It carries such a myriad of flavors, scents, 
ideas, laments, and ruefully gentle smiles, calling back across the 
musician's many long years of craft to produce his crowning statement in a field of excellences. Magical Thinking is indeed magical listening, wrought by a vet who never lost the spark that drove him to take up the crucible in the first place. Of all the die-hards who have impressed us with their devotions to the Muse, there is perhaps no one more tried and true than Rhode Island's JP Jones, a man who may well be America's most talented yet hidden lion of independent music. This disc at long last should prove to be his shining moment. 
Steven Francis, OpEdNews.com

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Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange


 Thugs and Lovers

This review is written by Kevin McCarthy

Love the title, don't you?

Like with his previous release "Jeremiah," JP Jones is back with another stripped-down, all-acoustic, a man, his guitar, telling-stories-in-his-head release. But there is one differerence. As enjoyable as "Jeremiah" was, "Thugs and Lovers" is even better So good, that it should be on many "Best of 2005" lists. It will be on mine.

The most apt comparison I can come up with for Jones is Greg Brown. In the writing and, at times, in the singing, he certainly could be mistaken for Brown. Sometimes the music is even early Dylan-esque. Yes, we're talking some mighty high company here.

A folk release, with elements of the blues, Jones' CD musically travels the path from contemptuous anger and scornful cynicism to greater self-awareness and finally, with the last cut, a degree of transformation. All is displayed through the prism of relationships.

One offering here, the anthem-like "a man stands up," is so good it will make you positively giddy. Worth the price of the CD alone, this inspirational and empowering song-guide simplifies all human interaction. Jones sings:

"when a sister's lost
when she's left behind
when a brother falls
on the hardest times
when a child's life
is on the line
a man stands up

with a tender heart
with an open mind
with a will to heal
where the world is blind
in the face of greed
and the party line
a man stands up..."

This one will remind listeners of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."

"Revelation" comes very close to matching the power and intensity of "a man stands up." Dramatically detailing the arc of a relationship, Jones takes the listener from the earliest beginning to the concluding torment of  recurring guilt. The song ends with:

"...now all your days are haunted
by the ghosts
the ghosts you couldn't kill
the ones you never really wanted
the one you always will
the revelation of her soul
exploding in your path
she gave you everything except
the faith you never had."

The first half of the release contains the bitter and 'bluesey' focus. A verse from "not your business now" serves as a prime example: "we used to roll together, a couple of puppies in bed, tell each other our secrets, all the dreams in our head, sleep with who you want to, make love if you know how, who I'm wakin up with, it's not your business now..."

The Dylan-like tunes are "crawlin out of wakefield," "nothin like" and somebody who will." These could easily be included in Dylan's early songbook.

In "nothin like," Jones provides these evocative lines: "nothin like the beauty in my true love's eyes, nothin like the shining in the blue, blue sky, nothin like the feelin of her hand in mine, nothin like the shadow that she left behind..."

"somebody who will" starts with: "it's as clear as night and day baby, we just can't connect, I got too much to unload here, you got too much too protect..."

By the final cut, a degree of personal evolution or resolution has taken place:

"gotta second chance
got some work to do
gotta second chance
you can get one too
gotta second chance
more 'n I deserve
got my mind made up
I'm here to serve..."

So if you are seeking imagination, poetry and insight, then frolic in the continued unveiling of one of the best American singer-songwriters, JP Jones. He is a masterful songwriter.

Okay, I lied in my second paragraph, but just a bit. Jones accompanies himself on acoustic guitar AND rack harp.

Track List:

  • temporary blues - (3:36)
  • pink flamingos - (3:41)
  • not your business now - (3:32)
  • crawlin out of wakefield - (5:23)
  • handbasket - (1:53
  • long haul - (3:41)
  • a man stands up - (2:37)
  • nothin like - (2:30)
  • buildin on your case - (3:36)
  • somebody who will - (3:57)
  • revelation - (5:20)
  • here to serve - (2:37)

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Y’know, it’s hard to decide what’s bolder, ending this recording with “Abu,” a 19 min, 20 seconds spoken word piece (dating back to 1987), with no text supplied for the story – we’ll get back to it later – or donning a neck-scarf of the kind some people associate with one side in the current troubles in the Middle East and staring past the potential buyer with large, gloomy eyes, looking at something ‘way beyond sales figures. Who is this guy, a first-time visitor to the world of JP Jones might well ask.

The first cut, “Prophet in his Prime,” a growling, wailing first-person meditation on the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah, twisting and turning along in this could be first draft from “my emerging material/taken from a back page of my mind,” announcing itself as “one episode in a serial/a document of love/in our time,” telling you to “take it from a prophet in his prime,” begins to answer the question.  It also turns directly to the hearer: “the only mortal flaw/I ever heard of/when did your heart turn to ice?” and sharing the mortal chill, “when did mine?” – but pleading “don’t give up on us but/take the word of/a poet who has paid and/made it rhyme.”

The internal alliterations and half-rhymes in the verse complicate and release the address to a maybe-unheeding listener, the unheard participant – or heedless bystander? - in the drama. Give that powerful, rising and falling voice and that insinuating solo guitar half a chance, and he’ll sweep you on in.

The apparent exultation of

“there’s a new world a-comin/and it won’t be long,”

opening the next song immediately gives way to,

“where will you stand when the old one is gone?”

The Old Testament prophet for whom the whole collection of “emerging material” is named now rises to full pitch –

“the sun will be blindin
the oceans will rise
and it won’t do no good
to be blamin the skies”

– colloquial and towering at the same time. The only partial escape from the doom-filled vision in which we are all swept up –

“will we wake up in time/to find what it’s about?”

– given that “the changes this time/must come from inside out” – seems to be to “lay down your heartache/and pick up a song.” But what kind of song? And he goes on, in the next song on the CD, “With Open Eyes,” to take the part of the refugee, “from a modern war,” who “lost my family/you’ve seen my face before/with open eyes/with open eyes,” and you turn over the recording in your hands to look into those large, mournful eyes. Oh yeah. I’m betting by this time you’ve got it, and he’s gotcha. Not for nothing is JP Jones’ single-artist record company called “Vision Company.”

There is some relief from the intensity, in the shout-out which follows, calling on “every boy, every girl/everybody in the/whole wide world” to get together and let it out. At this point, maybe you’ll miss JP’s rockin’ bar-band, Rite Tite, which has appeared on a number of his previous outings on Vision Company, the solo guitar taking the instrumental weight that otherwise might have been shared with the guys in the band: “play to win and be kind/have a little peace of mind/stand up tall and be free” – JP’s been known to kick his jams out.

But the song which follows, “Still Life” –

a black bird from the mountains
and the morning just begun

he was either lost or he was

searchin for the sun”

winds slowly into

“standin in the door and I don’t/

know what I’m waitin for

/there’s no tellin where or why she’s gone,”

just takes you on into the territory of a heart broken in love. The haiku-like juxtaposition – “the wind is from the mountains

/and I know more snow is due/

I tried and tried to reach her/

but there’s just no getting through,”

leads on into the lament,

“holdin on the line/

I will try another one more time/

nothin but the silence ringing true,”

and you can hear that phone at the other end, just not getting picked up. The sorrows of Jeremiah have more than merely political origins.

OK, as Richard Thompson has reminded us, songwriting is theatre. If you find yourself playing the part of the bereft lover here, it’s working.

And we’re back to the retelling of the Old Testament story and the title song, “Jeremiah,” with Isaiah

“who say to Jerry/’

son, wha do you intendin to?

/makin all of them predictions,”

and voicing the prophet’s second-worst fear,

“what if one of em should come true?”

Just imagine –

“all them people dead

/all them things you said.”

Worst of all,

“out of the darkness comes a Christ/

who fails to heed it pays a price.”

Dire warning, indeed – what if? And the story of Jeremiah unwinds in the tight verses that follow, the tale of the prophet whose visions fail to come true, lost and deserted,

“underneath the midday sun/

lookin out across the valley

/thinking how far he had come.”

Vision enough for you?

So back to a lovesong – “Without You” – and a story about someone “playin solitaire” – “The Man Upstairs” – and a simple song about separate lives – “So Far So Good” – even an old Scottish song – “So Early in the Spring” – which lands a sailor back in Glasgow town before he goes a-roaming once again without his lost love, and then finally – not finally – a sweet love song, “To Sleep With You” – a collection which seems by now to have drifted a little from its original visionary intention.

Seems to have. But finally, here’s the story of King Abu, the life of someone who, reared to be a “Solitary Walker,” passes thro the rituals of initiation with seeming failure, but then – somehow – ascends to the throne, with a lover by his side, and drifts on thro a long life of serene rulership, to a slow and gentle death, finally passing quietly from the scene, as his lover draws the curtain on his reign. It’s a life of understated drama, the gods and monsters largely offstage, breaking thro at the necessary critical moment – whose meaning remains obscure, as is a final evaluation of the king. Was he really a failure at the hour of testing? Was his long and serene life an answer to that question? Did he really deserve his throne, and did the peaceful calm of his reign lay that question to rest? Unanswered questions, of course, probably calling for repeated listenings to his quiet, regal and non-regal story, and maybe even then not yielding up all of its answers. You come up from immersion in the story strangely refreshed, made calm and peaceful yourself. In the term of the mystic, this king has “a good ending.”

Where did it come from, this non-Jeremiad placed so strangely – yes – at the end of an absorbing musical journey? It’s a blessing, of course, a gift from the well of JP’s visions. It may not get much airplay, given its length, its spoken-word status. I’m glad it’s there, however. Don’t pass it over when you listen to “Jeremiah,” a CD whose music might otherwise tempt you to let go this long, mildly dramatic conclusion. It’s a revelation of depths beyond the prophetic, beyond the love songs, beyond the quirky celebrations, a slowly moving glimpse into mysteries of the heart and of the soul. It deserves respect.

  Copyright John McLaughlin

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Life and Death

Every time JP Jones releases a new CD he sends me a copy with a note saying that he hopes I'll play it on my radio show ... but supposes it's too rock 'n' roll.  I always concur. Life and Death is no less rock than his previous releases, yet I find myself playing it on my radio show.  That's because it is one very compelling CD.  There's nothing "beautiful" about this recording.  I don't grow misty-eyed over Jones's voice or want to wax eloquent about his guitar playing, although he possesses a fine voice and knows his way around a guitar.  Rather, JP Jones writes with an intensity and vision that transcends the sound. Don't misunderstand, this is a first rate production.  The songs live up to the CD's title, they revolve around the two fundamental poles of our existence, even the oblique love songs.  Jones certainly has a way with words, and he nails them, hammers them, and stretches them, but never minces them.  His songs question our values and reject war. Whether the opening song "Cum a Live" or "What in God's Name" he resentfully questions our wars in the name of God and sums up everything nicely in the concluding "When the Change Finally Comes."  The intensity never lets up, even on the quieter songs such as "The King Is Dead," or "In the Beginning."  The latter cleverly connects the here and now and the eternal.  However, Jones does have a wry sense of humor and can laugh at himself, or at least his trade, as he does in "The Last Song."  This is probably the last rock CD I'll review, but I felt compelled to announce even an acoustic folkie can be stirred and shaken by a forceful trip into life and death. Rich Warren – Sing Out!

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Salvation Street

"...A MASTERPIECE"-- Independent Songwriter Web Magazine

 When all is said and done, there are maybe a score of singer-songwriters today who combine deep insight into the human psyche with a broad grasp of  history, religion, literature, American mythology and landscape - plus a real genius for writing both words and melodies. With this album, the best-executed in a string of fine recent work, JP Jones ought to be counted among them.

The title track, which opens the release, is a song of hope - a trust that love and simple purpose can redeem us. "Long Blue Train" continues the prologue. With its epic sweep, it is a folk classic - part invocation, part manifesto of the writer's vocation. The entire world is swept away on this eight minute freight train of a song. Other songs in this visionary mode are "Nobody Speaks for Me," Dante's Highway," "Ordinary Day" and the final song, "What Called Me to This." Together they are Jones' statement on art and the life of the artist.

In some ways, Jones is as democratic as Whitman -moments of spiritual insight, transcendence and an almost universal sense of communion are available to everyone on a daily basis if they can shake off the lures and hypocrites.

There are quieter moments here too. "Thas Right" allows ample time for repose with a lover. I also liked "Mole In The Ground," a love lament which takes off from the first line of the traditional American ballad to revel in the wild, insensate world of things.

An album like this deserves to have printed lyrics. Also, there are a few lighter songs at the very end of the record, notably "Tiger Woods" and "Po Man." They might have worked better if they'd been spread out more. But these are minor quibbles. Fine production and excellent musical/muse backup includes vocals by Barb Schloff and Les Sampou. Hugh Blumenfeld, Sing Out!

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Back to Jerusalem

Singer/songwriter JP Jones has always been Dylanesque, from his provocative lyrics to his warm, rough-hewn voice and offbeat inflections. The Dylan influence is particularly overt on Jones' latest, "Back to Jerusalem," a gorgeously produced(by Jones), richly orchestrate4d CD that calls to mind the former Mr. Zimmerman's "Christian phase" classics "Slow Train Running"[sic] and "Infidels."  Not that Jones-- a former Voluntown resident now based in Newport, RI-- is any sort of Dylan tribute act. He's a remarkably gifted artist in his own right whose ambitious folk-pop tunes manage to explore a wide range of themes and incorporate an equally diverse array of musical styles. This is a record full of surprising flourishes, tinkling pianos and weepy violins where you don't expect them, gospel-flavored background vocals, electric guitar licks and horn riffs that pop in and out of nowhere.  Through it all though, there is that Dylanesque air, starting with the album's title track, whose galloping rhythm and dramatic chorus build-up call to mind another Dylan, Jakob, and his Wallflower's hit "One Headlight."

Artist's Perspective 
On "Already Been Thru It," a south of the border flavored number with a little Tijuana brass section, Jones speaks eloquently from the perspective of an artist who's learned to seek and find satisfaction in creative achievement rather than commercial success. Jones' lyrics here are often wise, but never smug. He has the perspective of a mature poet, but hasn't lost the playfulness or occasional bitterness of a young one, as on the biting ballad, "Getting Your Way," in which he sarcastically wishes an ex-girlfriend well: 
"Your heart is a desert 
you whore with your head 
you couldn't make love 
with a saint in your bed 
you're three-quarters dead 
but don't let it get in the way 
Good luck with the wedding 
I'm glad that you're getting your way" 

"Aint That Love" with its moody Mark Knopfler-like guitar-riff, sounds like it could be a lost track from "Infidels," while "Works for Me" recalls Dylan's "Man of Peace" and Clapton's "Lay Down Sally."  Jones gets down to his folk roots on "As If," a straight acoustic number showcasing some pretty string plucking, and closes strong with the thoughtful mid-tempo pop number, "Fancy Guy." 

A child of the 60's, Jones released his first album in 1973. "Back to Jerusalem" is his sixth release since founding his own record label, Vision Company, in 1991. Ken Stroebel, The Norwich Bulletin 

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John Paul Jones recorded his first album in 1972 at the age of 23. Released on CBS' Columbia/Windfall label, it sold only 8000 copies. He waited eighteen years to release his next self-produced album, and has, over the past 10 years, released three more. This[Ashes] is his latest. Jones has a gravelly voice and some 300 songs stored up to sing. He feels that maturity has given him something worth writing about. He does indeed have a variety of styles to go with a variety of messages. At one point he says: "now don't you worry, if you're a loner / your spirit can be wounded but it never can be killed / some how I know it deep down inside me / every longing of the human heart / shall one day be fulfilled."

There is a bit of the rocker in Jones, along with a Dylan sound, and some Jack Hardy. All in all, it is an unusual collection of songs performed well. In an age of silly lyrics and indistinguishable voices, JP Jones indeed has something different to offer. He is worth serious attention. Victor K. Heyman, Sing Out!

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Angels on the Road

The album begins with "One Of These Days", a bossa nova-"ish" tune that finds a common connection between Napoleon, a street juggler and every other form of humanity on Earth and beyond. We all struggle to understand our environment and to survive amidst the turmoil. The whole message evolves around the promise of delivery in some future time and place. For its desolate theme, it is rather positive and refreshing. 

"69-er Diner" is a grand-daddy of a song boasting a track length of nine minutes and thirty nine seconds long. The beauty in it is the fact that it doesn't try to fit within time constraints and leave out the atmosphere in exchange for "radio-ready" product. This is a mini-drama that reminds one of the movie,  "Bus Stop" with its eccentric characters and dragging plot. If you have the time and the desire to be entertained, don't skip this very sultry, juicy, backwoods morsel.

"Pest From The West" has a laid back beat and a touch of Mexicali inspiration. Thorazine meets the Old South. Nice. 

"Peggy's Song" where the lonesome sound of the harmonica welcomes you into a Townes Van Zandt-styled number that has an ancient flavor and a timeless class just like Townes himself. "Mona Lisa" cha-cha with just a pinch of attitude. 

"Atlantis Revisited" is a cross between Bruce Springsteen and Townes Van Zandt, Jp Jones proves that he is a true songsmith especially with this original. There's a raw, slightly imperfect, vocal nuance that weaves itself through this ballad, endearing the listener to the story and to the storyteller. 

"Biodegradable Romance" Taken from the motivations of today, this love song proves that there is always a unique way to say "love" without actually saying it. 

"Roll Me Over" is a spunky rock-blues dynamo that pulls the rug out from under you and shows no mercy. Pumping sound that is relentless and gives that funky edge to the whole project. 

"Holy Rollin Moment" This is a slow motion tune in the beginning and then quickly evolves into a full-fledged butt-kickin' country beat. Mixed with superb musicianship and made for the people who love real music. 

"5 White Ducks" Great guitar playing that just goes with the flow. Honest, clean sound. 

"Blues Hospital" when you check this out, you'll want to check in, for sure. If it's the gruff, deep sound waves that cascade from out of his soul and into the microphone or if its the deep sense of history that seems to prevail in the delivery, JP Jones will make you feel the music in a totally different way. If this don't move you, you are clinically brain dead. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeepppp. 

"Body and Soul" This is definitely something that Bruce Springsteen should be singing. The pop flavor is there and ready for the taking. 

"Crossroads Where I Stand" You'd better have the time to spare for this one. With a duration of over thirteen whole minutes, this one is meant for those times when you have the time to invest in retrospective relevance. 

"Because of You" a bit of Neil Young interjected, this cut is about as 60s as you can get. The spirit of the past will be protected here. 

"Lover's Farewell" A nice delicate ending to a standout album of incredible proportion. 

IN SUMMARY: If you only buy one indie album this year, this would be the one to get. "Angels on the Road" is a CD for those musical and lyrical purists in the world. It's an understated piece of brilliance that allows the music to carry it through. This is a treasure without the glitter and glitz. It's real music played and written by one of the best songwriters in the indie world. There is no overplaying here. Every single note has a purpose, a voice and a reason for being. There is no fluff.......no fill. Yet, for all of the albums' seriousness, it isn't stagnated by regimented execution. It is full of creative and surreal ideas and places that invite a sense of conscious weightlessness. It allows the listener to use the right and left sides of the brain simultaneously and harmoniously. A musical miracle of unpretentious proportion. 

Jan Best - Independent Songwriter Web Magazine
Used by Permission



"JP Jones turns from folk/rock and pop songwriting to a  more classical  format with the release of his 1997 album Bard.

With pieces like the accessible " Jig" and " Scotsman's Elegy" (with bagpipes, of course), Bard has cinematic scope and a baseline Celtic feeling. More powerful, however, and perhaps reminiscent of the works of (Igor) Stravinsky, are Jones' more modern symphonic pieces.

The " Passion of Harvey" is a tension-filled argument between string sections that would be appropriate for a modern dance score, while " Fanfare for a Fallen King" suggests a Medieval-flavored processional. The sweep and scope of
the piece vividly brings both action and colorful images to mind.

" Grief so Sweet" is a bittersweet waltz, with the themes and synth vocals tangling like Maypole ribbons. Connie's Last Stand is an upbeat yet sweet track that uses snazzy rock riffs; simple organ and flute sounds carrying the catchy tune. As the piece progresses, more and more instrumental voices are added until it becomes a victory march."

-Carol Wright, New Age Voice


Broken Open 

“I want to be a force in this world,” says JP Jones.   “I want my voice to be heard.”

What the Voluntown singer/songwriter means is he wants a wider audience to hear his voice, his work, captured on a new CD, Broken Open, available at Mystic Disc and getting airplay on many college radio stations.   

Jones, who plays Friday at Natone’s Coffee House in New London, looks the part of an intense troubadour with his hawkish features, dark eyes, wiry frame and battered guitar case. 

The CD is a folky collection of mainly acoustic songs with nice hooks and thoughtful lyrics. 

Jones studied Classical music growing up, but was drawn to rock and folk, influenced by greats such as Paul Simon, Neil Young, James Taylor, and Bob Dylan. 

On songs like the quiet ballad Hymn, Jones’ voice calls to mind a Nashville Skyline-era Dylan, but it can also remind you of the new Unplugged Clapton, as on the straight blues tune Poodles from Hell.  

Like Springsteen at his best, Jones is able to write songs that seem to dwell on loneliness, despair and disappointment, yet somehow evoke a feeling of hopefulness.

Moving Train, the CD’s opening track, is a prime example, about a “two-time loser” who finds and clings to love; simultaneously joy and fear. 

Optimism is also a cornerstone of Jones’ family based production company, Vision Company Records, founded four years ago. 

Jones recorded Broken Open over a year in a studio donated by friend and colleague, Lloyd Salisbury, using all local musicians.  The depth of instrumentation, purity of sound, and polish of production is remarkable for an independently produced record. 

There are lots of subtle touches to appreciate, like the beautiful background vocals of Adele Tarkowski, on many tracks, the soft brush work and quiet keyboards on Good Night Baby, the bold guiding bass line on She Knew What She Was Doing, and the understated strings on Bold Troubadour

Jones also makes use of a Lloyd Salisbury’s trumpet on songs such as Drummer Boy, and especially In the Kingdom  

While his earlier Voluntown included rock-edged, electric tracks, Broken Open is almost straight acoustic, most of it recorded live, with little over-dubbing.  Jones said some of the songs were written during the recording session, while others go as far back as the ‘70’s. 

Jones said he strives to keep his tunes accessible, although his lyrics are more complex than those of the average pop song.  “I want them to have an immediacy, but to stand up to repeated listenings,” he said. 

Jones said the new record is even more personal than Voluntown, and that many of the songs address the frustrations of the artist at odds with the business world and other factors that keep him from being heard by a wide audience. 

Frustrations Jones knows well. 

“The music business if feast or famine.  Either no one’s interested in you when there’s no money involved, or there’s a potential for sales and everybosy wants a piece of the action,” he said. 

Jones said the machinery of the music business is shameful, and eats up a lot of good artists.” 

“For everyone making it there’s ten people as good or better out there working in anonymity,” he said. 

Jones started Vision in the hope of helping some struggling artists get their work out to at least a limited audience.

“The idea of the company is to go beyond music and into other fields,” he said.  “There’s a vision that people involved with the company share.  It’s positive and hoipeful for the potential of humanity, not like the cynical opinion that’s popular in today’s culture.” -- Ken Stroebel, Norwich Bulletin



At some point in your life you've been involved in this scene: boy/man picks up acoustic guitar to woo girl/woman with a soulful love song. Good News! The New Age's balls have just dropped. "What Never Was," the haunting cornerstone of this album ("Are they still called albums?") is tailor made for such occasions. The basic "I-wish0I'd-thought-of-that" tune and pared-down acoustic arrangement make it possible for suitors the world over to win hearts. And if that's not enough, it even contains the sure-fire lyric, "You were right, I was wrong." A beautiful piece of work. However, this is definitely not an soft music. From the opening cut, the allegorical rocker, "You gotta Come to Me," to the do-or-die hopefulness of the closing "New World A-Comin'," one is reminded of Simply Red's debut "Picture Book" for the sheer unpredictability of the music on a track-to-track basis. "Still Lonely, Still Dreamin'" jumps and jumps high. This is the stuff that, uh, "hits are made of." "Johnny Golightly" offers the first opportunity (in the album's chronology) to sit back and listen to the word, "Aim me in my future/Shoot me through my past." Yeah. "No Lights on the Water" is the kind of song the Beach Boys would do if they lived in the East and didn't have summer all year round. David Lynch would love the title cut, "Down in Voluntown," and "333 Drunkards," for their dark portraits of a netherworld of rural American despair. The honky-tonk piano of "333 Drunkards" recalls the party-going cynicism of Nilsson's "1941" or Dylan's "Rainy Day Women..." Bobby Z's influence pops up again on "Ruins of the Dawn," an epic journey through the dark and stormy night of True Soul Music. You have got to hear this song. An album on Columbia in the 70's and sporadic EP released in the 80's by Jones have traced the evolution of an artist with a lot on his mind and a commitment to finding the right way to say it. Voluntown is a work of discovery and that rarest of things in today's world of popular music: an emotional experience. Nick Sheilds Sound Waves Magazine


John Paul Jones

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Well, this is the album that started it all off, of somewhat dubious history as I've mentioned elswhere.  Back in '73 a writer from Rolling Stone interviewed me and happily remarked that a review in the Stone would guarantee us 10,000 on sales and launch my "career."

Here's a recent on-line review.


Anyone wishing to offer another or simply some thoughts on any of JP's work is welcome, and maybe they'll be published here.... try me jp@jpjones.net

Home Recordings

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What, you expect me to write a review of my own songs, which haven't even been released on a CD yet?

Take me to the Top!


Music and performances 2016 JP Jones. Site Design, Publishing  2016 Vision Company Records. All Rights reserved.