Patrick Stanfield Jones' debut CD, A Heart and an Open Road, is the culmination of years of experience. Jones has been a performer for more than thirty years and his debut album sounds mature because of it. It tackles original tunes as well as the classic songs "Sunshine of Your Love" and "The Best is Yet to Come." While there are several genres included in A Heart and an Open Road, Jones shows a mastery of all of them. The pacing of the album is strong and ordered well as Jones changes tempos without a hitch.
A Heart and an Open Road begins with the title track which follows the essence of country-rock or rockabilly styles. The song sets up the strong guitar solos from Jones. I love the tempo increase right at the end of the track and almost wished that the section lasted longer. The track "Hammer" is a great example of how Jones can create a timeless sound. The song could fit with the 50s Sun Records sound and could be comparable to artists like Carl Perkins. Yet the song has a modern relatability. The addition pipe organ to "Yo Do De Do" is both humorous and an interesting parallel to the idea of a youthful relationships. The most commercial of all the songs has to be "Changing of the Guard." Jones has found the essence of a good pop/rock song: pertinent and catchy lyrics, a very accessible guitar solo, and passionate vocals. The song is a strong ending to a wonderful album.
While Jones had a hand in most of the tracks on A Heart and an Open Road, the four cover songs included in the album fit the pacing and mentality of the original tracks. The blues style of "No One Ever Tells You" allows Jones to show his mastery of the guitar. While his upper register isn't the strongest, Jones does a good job separating himself from the Frank Sinatra rendition.
"The Whiskey (Don't Bring Me Down)" continues with the bluesy style and the soulful guitar solo and is one of the best tracks on the album. The jazzy rendition of "Sunshine of Your Love" is amplified with the accompaniment of the saxophone. It is the best part of the whole song; the saxophone a happy side-step from the original rock anthem by Cream.
Jones' rendition of "The Best is Yet To Come" translates the song popularized by Sinatra/Bennett and gives it a rockabilly twist. The song adds a bit of 80s rock with the electric guitar and the vocals sounding like an aggressive version of Sting.
One small aspect to the liner notes that didn't go ignored were the small explanations about each of the songs. It helped get a picture and reason why the song was recorded in the first place. The softest and most emotional song, "If You Were My Baby" receives even more respect when you learn it was connected to his wife at the time, Nancy. The vulnerable lyrics and vocals make it the best song on the album. The simplistic arrangement, from the brushed drums to the acoustic guitar strumming in the background makes sure that the lyrics are absorbed. Another song that is accentuated by the liner notes is "Lisa." The lyrics of the song gets a background story that Jones explains in the liner notes. While not everyone will take the time to read the liner notes or the lyrics, the fact that Jones added quips to each song humanizes the whole album and makes the album more applaudable.
There is no doubt that Jones understands the basic structures of a good rock or jazz song and while some songs sound familiar, Jones adds modern twists. There is only one exception, the song "Love Attack" felt dated. After reading the liner notes, the song was written in 1982 and it unfortunately maintains the style of the time. A good song can become timeless with its arrangement and lyrical execution, like "The Whiskey (Don't Bring Me Down)," but "Love Attack" lacks the essence of a timeless song. It feels like a poor man's Tom Petty song. Removing or replacing several of the instruments may have contributed to a better song.
From beginning to end, A Heart and an Open Road feels effortless. The whole album melds different genres like country, blues, jazz, folk, and rockabilly without sounding like a mish-mash of noise. Notable songs on the album include the title track "A Heart and an Open Road," "The Whiskey (Don't Bring Me Down," "If You Were My Baby," and "Sunshine of Your Love." The album is a great introduction to Patrick Stanfield Jones and hopefully will be the precursor to more open, honest albums.