A pleasure of the Ruf records Blues Caravan tours is to catch young blues boys and girls and watch them develop. It wasn’t so long ago that I caught Laurence Jones in Bonn laying down some fiery licks with a confidence three times his tender age. Catching the ‘Brit Blues Boy Wonder’ on home UK turf and with the super backing of Jamie Little on drums and Roger Inniss on six string bass was too good a chance to miss!
The Cellars in Portsmouth, UK has, I discovered, a small but passionate crowd of supporters and a friendly atmosphere although front of stage being filled with tables and stools didn’t make for a get up and dance atmosphere. The music had quite a swing in it at times though, from the opening number taken from the ‘Influence’ disc ‘Cant keep living like this’ there was a lot to shake a leg to.
Laurence certainly knows his blues heritage. but what impresses me is that he doesn’t copy it. Even when he takes numbers from the masters there is a new coat added to them. BB Kings ‘Thrill is gone’ had a funky backdrop thanks especially to the rhythm sound that Roger Inniss gets from that custom six string of his. There is enough of Muddy Waters in ‘My eyes keep me in trouble’ to know where it came from, but enough of a swing to it that prevents it coming across as a mere jaded copy.
Then of course there is Laurence’s playing technique. It’s worth getting there early for a front row seat just to get a close up of his confident fingers on the fretboard as he teases out every last note with a gentle picking fingerstyle. Impressive too his his soloing using just his left hand on the fretboard that reminded me of seeing Jeff Beck and there is no higher praise than a favourable comparison with such a legend of the six string. There is also a new ‘weapon’ in his blues arsenal that I hadn’t counted on though. Jones has developed a seriously powerful and evocative voice too. It was particularly in evidence on his touching tribute to a deceased Uncle ‘Whisper in the wind’ which had one of the most mesmerizing bass solos I have heard in many a year. How does Roger Inniss get his fingers around that huge plank of a fretboard with such ease?
It was Jamie Little’s first gig on drums so a little hesitancy, especially early on, was only to be expected. He was soon very much a part of the groove though and numbers like the down ‘n’ dirty ‘Soul swamp river’ sound even better now than the excellent version on his first Mike Zito produced CD. The next disc promises to be a blinder.
See Laurence Jones if you can, and there is a good chance you can because he has a busy schedule lined up and it should lead into a very bright future indeed. Two days after this show he was off to play at Lahnstein in front of 2000 people and tv cameras. Another reason to be thankful I could see those flying fingers up close without fear of my pint glass getting sent flying in the masses. Laurence Jones is rarely seen onstage without a big smile on his face – and looking around me in the Cellars, it was happiness very much shared by people who have every right to be proud of their venue and the quality of acts it presents. There won’t be many, if any, better ones there this year though I’m sure.