Billy Jones, born Nov. 21, 1953, isn’t what I was expecting to find when I began emailing people in search of a taste of what Arkansas’s music scene had to offer. Instead of young artists struggling to discover themselves through music as well as whether or not they have what it takes to ultimately make it in the music industry, Jones is a musician that has already discovered that about himself.
Having worked in his youth as an understudy to the likes of such accomplished blues artists as Little Johnny Taylor, Larry “Totsie” Davis, Calvin Leavy, Rufus Thomas, Cal Valentine, Richard “Dimples” Fields, The Loving Sisters, Art Porter and many others, Jones quickly became a talented and accomplished guitarist and vocalist in his own right. How else would he have had the chance to either record or perform professionally with Vernon Garrett, Willie Clayton, Chocolate Milk, Chaka Khan, The Bar-Keys, Chick Willis, Willie Cobb, etc.
Simply put, this particular step along my path was one that had honed itself over many years into exactly what it wanted to be, a true blues musician.
Scheduled for release on Apr. 24, is Billy’s latest album (his second on his current label, Black & Tan Records), simply entitled My Hometown, and is just my first taste of the man’s music. At times dark, mysterious, downright funky, and always compelling, each of the ten songs on the album guarantees I’ll be back for more.
Whether talking about the incredibly soulful and funky opener, “Here With You,” the slithering and additively seductive groove of “Crystal,” the rolling bass-line and plaintive vocals of “The Clown,” the gorgeously realized mixture of frustration and hopeful dreams locked into the aching soul-groove of “My Hometown,” down to the rollicking guitar line on “Bluez Comes Callin’” that closes the album, it’s as if every song chastises me for never having heard of this man or his music before now.
On the opening page of the album’s liner notes, Bob Davis of Soul-Patrol.com talks for a bit about Jones and his music:
“Billy Jones is the kind of artist that’s worth getting excited about. He wants to change the world, one listener at a time, and here in the year 2007 it’s an awfully exciting thing to be able to be a fan of an artist who believes that music can still be a vehicle for change.”
Simply listening to My Hometown over the past few weeks, I think I can safely agree with that, as well as call myself one of Jones’ fans. While I love and adore more traditional blues artists such as Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, etc., it was just so damned nice to be able to sit down and listen to something that speaks eloquently in the tradition of those older artists and traditions, and yet manages to bring something new and funky to the table.
In closing, I’d love to ask that you all do yourselves an immense favor and head on over to Billy’s myspace page, and give a listen to some of his music. I’d also ask you to take the time and order one of his albums, but after you’ve listened to him play and sing, that’s a favor that I won’t have to bother asking — you won’t be able to help yourself.
Much thanks to Billy Jones for giving me the chance to listen to his newest album, and for giving me a look at a different slice of Arkansas’s music scene. Closing my eyes and taking a break from typing as I listen to his album (again), I can’t help but want to slap myself for not knowing about his music earlier.
I can’t wait to see what else is out there to listen to. Until later…