With some luck, we’ll be talking about JW-Jones in the same breath as we do Johnny Winter and Jimmie Vaughan.
JW-Jones is a bluesman from Ottawa, Canada, and has an incredible CV. He has racked up multiple Maple Blues Awards, was described by the Globe and Mail newspaper as “one of [Canada’s] top blues guitar stars” and recently found success in his hometown by being named by the Ottawa Business Journal as one of the 40 Under 40 recipients earlier this year for balancing business achievement, professional expertise, and community involvement. Jones also opened tours for the late Johnny Winter and Jimmie Vaughan.
So Jones is a successful guy, but people who love pure blues may feel a bit left out on Jones’ new album Belmont Boulevard. The record is more contemporary in feel; opening cut “Love Times Ten” has a country vibe going for it, and “Coming After Me”, in a way, nudges into Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan territory. Still, Jones does pay respect and homage to his blues masters, as a song on the album, “What Would Jimmie Do?”, is actually about Vaughan.
The contemporary sounding stuff is nice, sure, but it’s when Jones lets it rip that the results are at their most stunning. The fiery instrumental “Magic West Side Boogie” is rough and tumble, and, dare I say, the most enjoyable moment on the record. Also noteworthy is the seven-minute, almost dubby “Cocaine Boy”, which closes the record.
Jones also manages to tackle tough topics, such as spousal abuse: “Why do you cry at night? / What he did ain’t right / You don’t have to be ashamed / You’re not the one to blame” on “Don’t Be Ashamed”. Not everything works as “Blue Jean Jacket” seems slight, but, that said, this is material that is probably best served in a live setting with a responsive audience, rather than on a finely honed and well produced disc.
Basically, if you like the commercial and contemporary side of the blues, you will love Belmont Boulevard. If you’re a die-hard purist, you may snivel your nose at some of this stuff. However, that just seems to be the way that Jones wants it, so props to him for following his own muse. Belmont Boulevard is the mark of a man more than coming into his own, and, maybe, with some luck, we’ll be talking about JW-Jones in the same breath as we do Johnny Winter and Jimmie Vaughan.