Pocono Jones & The Bear
Live at Cambridge Sound Studios
This is our second review for Pennsylvania-based folk/blues artist Paul Wilkinson, billed here as the The Bear in keeping with the solo effort from 2021, 400 Bears. He is joined by Pocono Jones, aka Brad Hinton for a live acoustic performance that took place during the pandemic. While most of the fare is familiar, they do mix in four originals in their back-to-the-basics of folk music session of ten selections with some deft guitar picking throughout as each trade vocal and guitar leads.
The eminently recognizable guitar motif of Mississippi John Hurt graces the opening “Louis Collins,” better known as “The Angels Laid Him Away” which has both in full voice on the 1929 murder ballad, creating warm harmonies. These are the kind of songs one would enjoy with friends at a cozy coffee house (not many of those left, you say?). They follow with another story song, “Rosalee McFall,” a vintage bluegrass0like tune once covered by The Grateful Dead (“Out on the lonely hillside in a cabin low and small/Lived the sweetest rose of color my Rosie McFall…”). “Borderline” is a Wilkinson original with his lower voice in the lead complemented by Jones’ higher lonesome sound. Tempo picks up with Jones singing about “Pretty Mama,” one of three songs written by Hinton. The tune has some of the nimblest picking on the album.
The easy shuffling “Blues Stay Away From Me” from The Delmore Brothers gets a reverent treatment with a string-bending guitar solo from Jones. Jones is back in the lead for the country classic “You’re Still On My Mind” (“an empty bottle, a broken heart, and you’re still on my mind”). The two continue to interact nicely both picking and singing as they move into Merle Haggard’s classic “Silver Wings,” wherein they’ve slowed the tempo to allow their harmonies to shine through brightly. “My Philadelphia Home,” another Hinton tune is taken at a bluegrass tempo, rife with rapid fire picking while the Hinton penned closer “Mourning Dove” is an upbeat tune despite the title, also leaning toward the back porch style with its repetitive chorus “I feel just like a mourning dove.” In between they render the traditional gentle shuffle “Stealin’,” having plenty of un along the way as evidenced by the chuckling banter between takes.
The intimacy alone will draw you in. Put your feet up and relax and let these two tunesmiths take you away, Pennsylvania style.
- Jim Hynes