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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

JW Jones Interview

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with JW Jones and he was kind enough to give us a little insight to his world.
Bman: Tell us how you got started. How long have you been playing?

JW : My dad used to play folk music, but more of my influence came from friends in the neighborhood. I grew up with a bunch of Greek guys that introduced me to Zeppelin and Hendrix and then later to the Fabulous Thunderbirds, B.B., etc. My first gigs were as a drummer, talent shows at school etc. My first proper gig as a guitar player was sometime around 1998, about two years after picking it up. It was probably opening for a UK band called "The Hoax" at a venue that no longer exists - Perfect Strangers, in Ottawa. I wasn't singing at the time, so I had a singer, drummer, bassist and keyboard player. We covered all of my favourite blues artists at the time, most of whom are the same today!

Bman: As a drummer. Interesting. Me too... although I'm not accomplished at it any more that as a guitar player. You know Jack White (Stripes, Raconteurs)started on drums too!

Bman: You have a number of great CD's out. Can you tell us which is your favorite and why.

JW : My "favourite" (Candian spelling haha) is usually my most recent, because I feel that we improve with every record. However, now and then, I will hear one of our old tracks on the radio or at a club and it will spark some memories, or remind me of some cool tracks we've recorded over the years. Of all my studio memories, I still cherish working with Kim Wilson on My Kind of Evil more than anything. Probably because I got to hang out and learn from one of my biggest influences for two weeks straight. It was like a dream-world every day, waking up and going for coffee and hearing the stories about the old days at Antone's and learning about how to deliver the "real thing" and what it all meant to him. Great memories. I have been so fortunate, and I mean it with all my heart, to have worked with my heroes, and great musicians and friends. I am a very lucky guy.

Bman: You have shared the stage with a number of great players. Are there any particular moments that stand out in your mind.

JW : In recent years we've done some festivals in Canada, USA, and Europe with Little Charlie Baty, and had some really great moments playing blues and swing with him. He's just absolutely unbelievable, and it really forces me to be a better guitarist when he's around. Not just when he's there on stage, but the affect is has on my playing on gigs after he's gone is where I really notice it. He's taught me many lessons as well, music and business stuff that can only come from a guy with as much experience as Charlie. Another great memory was playing with Hubert Sumlin for the first time. I was still pretty green at the time, and on a low down blues tune, I was playing some classic sounding rhythm stuff when he gave me a look that felt like he was giving me the "you're OK kid" kinda look. That kind of moment goes a long way, and is worth a lot more than any awards or nice reviews.

Bman: Yeah. I know what you're saying. He's seen it all. We know it isn't all about fast riffs and outrageous act... its the one note. Hubert knows and it's cool that he gave you the nod!

Bman: I'm a gear head. Tell me about your setup and what guitars you like to play and what kind of amp you typically favor.

JW : It always surprises the "guitar geeks", but I really don't know anything about amps, tubes, speakers, etc. I started with a Fender Strat that was a gift from my grandparents, played that straight for 9 years, and occasionally using my Gibson ES-295 for a few years in there before I started to worry about it's safety while traveling. In 2007, I switched to an Epiphone Dot (335 copy at a fraction of the price) after playing Rusty Zinn's guitar while sitting in with Mark Hummel. I couldn't believe how much easier it felt to play than the Strat. Why had I been battling a guitar for this long when this thing was so much easier to play!? A couple years later, I played Teddy Leonard's gold top Les Paul, and felt the same thing yet again, except this was even easier to play than the Epiphone Dot. This wasn't just any gold top though, it was chambered (lighter than a strat), and had a 60's profile neck on it. It shattered all my ideas of Les Paul's being impossible to play because of the heaviness and baseball-bat neck. I was in heaven! A few months later I tracked down the last of its kind in Canada, and have been playing it ever since. I now endorse Gibson Guitars as well, which is a fun step in my career that is kinda cool. Amp wise, I used to use a Bassman with Reverb Tank, but now my baby is a Fender Vibro-King, custom shop amp with 3 x 10" speakers and on-board reverb control with mix, dwell, and tone. I absolutely love this amp!

Bman: Well, a strat is the most common electric guitar on the planet so it isn't surprising that you started there. It was my first as well. 295 is a nice little guitar. I have a 225 with p90's . Gets a really nice round fat tone. Cool. Yeah... dangerous carrying older instruments on the road. They have a habit of getting broken or stolen. A friend of mine, Ron Armstrong, who was an ex Alembic, Stars, Excaliber guitar guy told me that I should get an Epi dot. He rigged it up for me with split coils and phasing as well as some Bart pickups. It really does a nice job and like you say, if someone steps on it, the cost isn't that high. Really nice instruments. I know what you're saying about the Les Paul. It is like a fine machine compared to the Dot, and it is really versatile. But I prefer to play it sitting. Clapton and Beck both changed over to strats just because of the weight. The LP does play really beautifully and easy and if you get a good one and the setup is great... it's hard to beat. I'm sure that the chambering has made a big difference not only in weight but I understand that it has helped in getting the golden tone. I have big hands and really love the feel of a baseball bat neck. You should try the obsolete and funky looking Martin EM 18's. They have a very unusual neck that really feels comfortable. Congratulations on the endorsement. That's great!! Regarding your amps, I really like the clean sound of the Fenders as well. The 10" speakers create such a nice full wall of sound without blowing everyone out of the club.

Bman: I see that you're currently on tour in Europe. The crowds there are getting a real treat. Are you set to tour the states any time soon?

JW : We are playing Norwood and Syracuse, NY in July, and then we probably won't head south again until January 2012 when we head back down to Key West to avoid the Canadian winter!

Bman: Good thinking!

Your music covers a lot of blues territory. Do you see yourself going more one direction than another?

JW : I try not to think of it as following one style. I just go wherever the tune takes me, and if it feels good, I am on the right track.

Bman: You seem to have great instincts there! Who are your greatest influences?

JW : B.B. King, Kim Wilson, Little Charlie Baty, Jimmie Vaughan, Junior Watson, Larry Taylor, Richard Innes, Anson Funderburgh, Charlie Parker, and a huge list that could go on and on!!

Bman: I know what you're saying. There is so much good stuff to listen to! Then what's your favorite blues cut of all time?

JW : Yikes, that is a scary question. Maybe B.B. King, Worry Worry, from Live at the Regal. I'll go with that!

Bman: Yeah. I love that cd a lot.

Bman: I appreciate the time. Please keep us posted of what you're up to and we'll be watching for you to come round here soon!

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