"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, its well past time the light shone on such
riveting talent...extraordinarily rewarding fare, easily the best genuine modern folk
music Ive heard in the last 10 years. - Mark Tucker - OpEdNews.com, feature. Read a longer
article from Mark Tucker at Perfect Sound Forever : part one
/ part 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 Blumenfeld - Sing 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. Hes a staccato stiletto to your heart. -- Mark Gresser - Music Matters Review
JP Jones, Folk Rock, and Magical Thinking
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This review is written by Kevin McCarthy
title, don't you?
"when a sister's lost
will remind listeners of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down."
"...now all your days are
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
"gotta second chance
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.
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Yknow, its hard to decide whats 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 well 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 dont 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 hell sweep you on in.
The apparent exultation of
theres a new world a-comin/and it wont 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
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 its 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/youve 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. Im betting by this time youve got it, and hes 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 youll miss JPs 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 JPs been known to kick his jams out.
But the song which follows, Still Life
a black bird from the mountains
he was either lost or he was
searchin for the sun
winds slowly into
standin in the door and I dont/
know what Im waitin for
/theres no tellin where or why shes 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 theres 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, its working.
And were 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 prophets second-worst fear,
what if one of em should come true?
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, heres 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. Its 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? Its a blessing, of course, a gift from the well of JPs visions. It may not get much airplay, given its length, its spoken-word status. Im glad its there, however. Dont pass it over when you listen to Jeremiah, a CD whose music might otherwise tempt you to let go this long, mildly dramatic conclusion. Its 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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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!
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.
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.
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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."
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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."
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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.
"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.
"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.
© Jan Best - Independent Songwriter
"JP Jones turns from folk/rock
and pop songwriting to a more classical format with the release of his 1997
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
Jones, who plays Friday at
Natones 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
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 CDs
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
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
Salisburys trumpet on songs such as Drummer Boy, and especially In the
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 70s.
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 ones interested in
you when theres no money involved, or theres 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
theres ten people as good or better out there working in anonymity, he
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. Theres a vision that people involved with the company share. Its positive and hoipeful for the potential of humanity, not like the cynical opinion thats popular in todays 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
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