Dennis Jones’ seventh album started with sessions in early 2020 following his successful European tour; we all know what happened then…the pandemic caused all sorts of challenges for Dennis in seeing this latest work through to fruition. The wonders of technology have meant his vision still happened and the situation the world found itself in even contributed to some of the lyrics and tonalities across the album.
In case you don’t know of Dennis, he has been playing guitar since he was thirteen and cites Page, Hendrix and Gibbons amongst his influences and is always in demand on the blues festival circuit and has toured with luminaries such as Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter. All of these excursions and influences can be heard to inform the ten songs on his latest album which sums up its content with the title: Soft Hard & Loud. You can expect therefore blues of many hues shot through with rock and even a slide into a reggae bounce on one track.
It all starts the complex rhythms of Revolves Around You: it has a deft touch to the guitar that makes me think of solo Tommy Bolin with the staccato chord and pick styles. Vocally he is adept to even when he phases some verses but the highlight is, inevitably, the tasty solos he lays down. The next track, I Love The blues is obviously autobiographical but very relatable to wannabe players like me. It is languid, slow and subtle blues with simple chords illuminating the backing track and the added benefit of some washes of hammond B3 courtesy of guest Bennet Paysinger. The guitar solo is a lovely exercise in using all of the strings and imbuing every note with emotion in a style so brilliantly realised by Gary Moore.
Like Sheep is riffy blues rock with a chord sequence that actually reminds me of Budgie but still fits perfectly with the acerbic lyrics and soloing that I could listen to all day. Front Door Man starts all SRV and keeps going in a great way as Dennis turns around the old blues story of a back doorman to the front! the solo is suitably fiery and fits in perfectly as he extends the phrases across the subsequent verses.
Nothin’ On You moves a little toward R’n’B with a hint of soul as the chord playing illuminates what could have been a little derivative in other hands. Thankfully he delivers countrified solos that made me stay with it and appreciate all the more. I Hate Hate is a great title and the reggae that infuses it actually works well as, once again, I am reminded of the late great Tommy Bolin and his People People song. This is slightly more reggae weighted than that but has a similar deftness of touch on the chord barring…plus the words are bluntly accurate. The solo is glorious but way too short.
Gonna Be Alright is back to the rock side of blues and perhaps illustrates best how tight the trio are – as the bass and drums on this are glued together and to the rhythms…another great solo too. When I Wake Up is the first true glimpse of Dennis’s Hendrix/Winter influences as this weighty blues romp utilises fluid runs over the riff and melody and great use of the wah pedal to emphasise rather than obliterate and that sense is carried into the excellent, original solo. I’m Not may lean on the tropes of Stormy Monday but is still original and damn good with Hammond waves from Jason Freeman backing the guitar solos that should have lasted at least for the whole album!
The final track is a cutting commentary on past (and unfortunately present) times as Burn The Plantation Down wraps the album up with a rocky blues of quality…it is a familiar structure but the guitar is so clever…who gives a shhhh?
This is a strong album from start to finish with the blues running deeply through every track: add to that some excellent guitar playing without histrionics and you get ten songs that are always welcome in this house.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful, 3 doodle pawed album full of varied and accessible blues album for all fan of the blues, not just guitarists like me.
1. Revolves Around You
2. I Love The Blues
3. Like Sheep
4. Front Door Man
5. Nothin’ On
6. I Hate Hate
7. Gonna Be Alright
8. When I Wake Up
9. I’m Not
10. Burn The Plantation Down
Dennis Jones: guitar, vocals
Raymond Johnson: drums
Cornelius Memes: bass
Bennet Paysinger: Hammond
Jason Freeman: Hammond
Michael Turner, Allison August: backing vocals
(The iTunes run-on track took me to another guitarist…Clapton in his Derek and the Dominos guise; I chose Bell Bottom Blues over the more obvious one!)