Chris Jones – Roadhouses & Automobiles – Stockfisch SFR 357.8027.1 double 45 rpm vinyl (Distr. by In-Akustic), 52:00 ****1/2:
Singer-songwriter connects to acoustic roots in excellent sound.
(Chris Jones – guitar dobro, vocals; Alan Taylor – vocal, guitar; Grischka Self – electric bass; Thomas Klippet – Hammond B-3;Yogi Jockusch – percussion; Christina Lux – backing vocals; Ian Melrose – guitar; Lutz Moller – piano, Hammond B-3; Hans-Jorg Maucksch – fretless bass; Wolfgans Beisart- mandolin; Beo Brockhausen – saxophone, African bow harp; Nils Tuxen – pedal steel; Siard de Jong – fiddle, mandolin; Martin Huck – pedal steel;
In many cases, acoustic folk artists don’t get the opportunity to record in quality formats. German label Stockfisch Records has become a destination for these artists. Under the watchful guidance of Gunter Pauler, several lesser-known guitarists have emerged. The latest example is Chris Jones, His current recording, Roadhouses & Automobiles has been released on 45 rpm 180-gram vinyl. The eleven-song album (including ten originals) is an intimate glimpse into the singer-songwriter narratives that revitalized the popular music scene, beginning with Nobel Laureate Bob Dylan in the sixties. Side A opens with the title cut of a classic road song framed by acoustic guitar (Jones), fretless bass (Hans-Jorg Maucksch) and pedal steel (Nils Taxen). Jones’ mellow baritone voice recounts the mildly ambivalent love affair with the road. The imagery (…There’s a long row of zeros, sittin’ in that dashboard light…”) is universal to musicians. Willie Nelson (“On The Road Again”), Harry Chapin (“Cat’s In The Cradle”), and Little Feat (“Willin’”) have all covered this before, but it stills has resonance. Switching to a recognizable musical structure, the next tune is an odd comparison of tobacco consumption to drug addiction. Despite the questionable context, the musical interaction is cohesive. [And several who have done both AAA and given up cigarettes have said tobacco was much more difficult…Ed.]
On the album’s sole non-original “Darlin’ Cory”, Jones and his bandmates shine. In the spirit of gospel bluegrass, the Appalachian-inspired composition is bathed in a gospel chorus (Jones, Christina Lux), fiddle/mandolin (Siard de Jong) and guitars. The dark (and at times humorous) saga of illegal distillery is great folk blues. Taking on a topical subject, “No Sanctuary Here” explores the issues of inequality and immigration (“…No refuge, no respite, no sanctuary here…”) with a reference to the birth of Jesus. The deftly syncopated tempo adds a different texture to the song. Jones gets to expand musically on the instrumental piece, “Fender Bender” (nice play on words). It is up-tempo bluegrass with a soulful touch.
Listening to Jones embrace the multiple facets and stylistic versatility of folk is impressive. Side C begins with an uplifting Sunday blues sermon (“God Moves On The Water”) that references Noah, the Titanic and El Nino (water always a popular subtext of religion). The arrangement is creative with a saxophone solo (Beo Brockhausen) and understated piano notes (Lutz Moller). Relying on the ever-dependable alcohol and broken-heart metaphor, “Set ‘em Up Joe” employs a sprightly guitar/mandolin jam between Jones and Wolfgang Beisert. This is reminiscent of similar collaborations including the ones with Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. The second instrumental (“ Jolanda’s Wedding”) is a near-Celtic pastoral opus. Side D shows yet another side of Jones. “Hoof Jelly” is a combination of Delta blues and Southern Funk. Slide guitar, trumpet and organ (Moller) are infectious. The momentum is stalled by the anti-religion manifesto “Don’t Need Your Religion”. But things rebound on the jaunty (another ditty of romantic failure) “Cold Creature”.
The vinyl production of Roadhouses & Automobiles (also available on CD and SACD) is stellar. The acoustic guitars , mandolin and dobro are captured with precise clarity. The natural reverberation and echo expand the soundscape. Jones’ voice sounds mellifluous. The mix is balanced and the voice and guitar are always up front. The lyrics also detail the various guitar tunings.
Side A: Roadhouses & Automobiles; Thank You (R.J. Reynolds)
Side B: Darlin’ Cory; No Sanctuary here; fender Bender
Side C: God Moves On The Water; Set ‘Em Up, Joe; Jolanda’s Wedding March
Side D: Hoof Jelly; Don’t Need Your Religion; Cold Creature
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