Soft Hard & Loud
Blue Rock Records
Dennis Jones hails from the rural town of Monkton, Maryland. His grandfather played an acoustic guitar and a thirteen-year-old Jones received his first guitar on Christmas Day. At the age of sixteen he was already in a cover band playing rock n’ roll. He joined the military when he was eighteen and while stationed in Germany, played in various bands, and witnessed some great concerts including Rufus Thomas and Rory Gallagher. Jones got married and moved to Los Angeles but later got divorced. He worked as an elevator technician and moonlighted in bands at night. When Jones got laid off he decided to pursue music full time. Jones played with Zac Harman before forming his own band in the early 1990’s. Jones recorded his debut “Falling Up” in 2003; and followed up with 2005’s “Passion For The Blues” with Harmon guesting on one track. Jones’ last album was 2018’s live “WE 3”.
This is Jones’ seventh album overall. The Dennis Jones Band includes co-producer Jones, guitar and lead vocals; co-producer Cornelius Mims, bass, keys, percussion and backing vocals; and Raymond Johnson, drums. Additional musicians include Bennett Paysinger or Jason Freeman, Hammond B-3; and background vocalists Allison August and Michael Turner. The album was recorded at the Matai Studios in Los Angeles.
All of the songs are written and arranged by Jones. The album’s title denotes songs that range from the soft and intimate, to the harder and louder blues rock, that Jones is noted for. The varying tempos reveal a songwriting skill that I had not previously recognized.
Jones opens with his sweet rhythm guitar on “you think that everything, Revolves Around You” before taking several definitive guitar solos. “I Love The Blues” is slower and an autobiographical snapshot that reveals his depth as a songwriter, and he follows with a dramatic solo while Paysinger is featured on the B-3.
On “Like Sheep” Jones sings of the current state of mind that exists today “just do what your told, like sheep”. Jones’ responds to Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man”, first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1962, with “Front Door Man”, his rhythm guitar pushing the tune forward, as he sings “I’m at your front door baby, where can I park my black Cadillac, I’m not afraid of your man, I ain’t sneaking around the back”.
My two favorites follow. On “Nothin’ On You” Jones sings “the hottest girl in town, got nothin’ on you… no diamonds and no pearls, ain’t a woman in this world, got nothin’ on you” while his solo and the sweet background, from vocalists August and Turner, complete the production. The topical “I Hate, Hate”, with its reggae beat, features some great bass from Mims as Jones sings “you think your better than me, but I don’t hate you”.
Jones plays harder and louder on both “Gonna Be Alright”; and on “When I Wake Up” with the lyric “I just want to be lying next to you”. “I’m Not” features Freeman sitting in on the B-3 and turns into an extended jam. Jones closes with another of my favorites, “Burn The Plantation Down”, a topical rebuke on Southern Culture.
Jones mixes his signature blues-rock with some great songwriting. I am surprised and thrilled with how much I like this album. This is the best I ever heard from Dennis Jones.