[18 January 2012]
PopMatters Associate Events Editor
For whatever ridiculous reason, Wizz Jones is practically unknown by American music listeners despite his heavily influential career across the pond. Around the same time as Bob Dylan, Jones was playing coffee shops in England and busking in France, and though he didn’t cause the same waves as Dylan’s huge splash, his local playing was impetus enough for the likes of Keith Richards, Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page – among many others. It was the beginning of a burgeoning UK folk scene that would soon be a catalyst for the British Invasion into America.
After years of recording his own albums, touring and being involved in other projects, today Jones still plays – and one of his more favored venues is in the Belgian living room of his old friend John Bacon, where Jones is able to put on intimate, casual performances aided by nothing but his acoustic guitar and warm singing voice. Huldenberg Blues is an attempt at capturing the vibe of those performances, recorded live in that very living room. Having not been privy to those living room concerts, I can only guess from the recording at how successful they are.
From moment one, this is reminiscent of Eric Clapton’s Unplugged, with short introductions followed by captivating acoustic folk classics, and the hushed excitement of his audience. Indeed, many of the tunes are the same, including “Hey Hey”, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and “San Francisco Bay Blues”. At times, Jones falls from one song into another like there is no boundary where one song ends and the other begins, as on his medleys of “Hey Hey / Shuckin’ Sugar” and “Got the Blues, Can’t Be Satisfied / Mississippi John”. At others, like his cover of Steve Tilston’s “Some Times In This Life Are Beautiful”, he is the picture of perfection and consistency.
Throughout the disc, his first live solo recording ever, Jones humbly proves why his playing was so influential – his finger-picking is steered by technique but powered by emotion. On “National Seven”, to imagine only one hand plucking the several parts at a time is nearly impossible. Meanwhile the tension in the room while he plays is palpable even on recording – all eyes and ears on Jones. The silence is so thick you can hear it, the only extra noises for the entire tune are of his foot tapping to keep the rhythm steady.
There is no use questioning why Wizz Jones is not more well- known in the United States, but instead it is necessary to note just where his playing has pushed music today. Without him as a standard, it is possible that many of the monsters of rock ‘n’ roll and folk may never have emerged. His playing is still today unsurpassed and classic. For new listeners and old, and Huldenberg Blues is a near perfect example.