Guitarist, singer, and songwriter J.W. Jones and his band have a reputation in Canada as the hardest-working blues touring act. That may or may not be true, but one thing is certain: Jones has latched onto an identifiable guitar and vocal style that sets him apart from so many other modern blues acts touring the U.S. and Canada these days.
Jones was born into a musical family in the summer of 1980, and he began playing drums as a 12-year-old. He switched to guitar shortly after this, after seeing his first B.B. King concert. Later in 1995, he began to hang out with and sit in with some of his early mentors, including Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, the Tony D. Band, and Big Jack Johnson & the Oilers. That same year, he met Koko Taylor and Son Seals. After receiving a Fender Stratocaster from his grandparents, Jones began to seriously study and practice guitar, and he also took up bass and played that instrument for a year.
The JW-Jones Blues Band was formed in 1998, when Jones was just 18. He and his high school friends -- all passionate about blues -- wasted little time in recording a six-track demo that got them further bookings at clubs and festivals across Canada. By the time he was 19, the young Jones had won the 1999 Ottawa Blues Guitar Riff-Off. After winning the Riff-Off, he went on a brief European tour in the summer of 2000, where he signed his first record deal with CrossCut Records in August of that year. Back home in Ottawa in November, he signed with Northern Blues Music, a Toronto-based label. His debut, Defibrillatin' received widespread airplay and critical acclaim across Canada, Australia, and in the U.S.
In 2001, he was nominated for New Artist of the Year at the 2001 Maple Blues Awards. Now in his late twenties, he's a crusty, seasoned road veteran, having toured around Canada, the U.S., Europe, Australia, and Brazil. He's been invited to share stages with the likes of the Fabulous Thunderbirds -- Kim Wilson produced the band's third album -- Junior Watson, Little Charlie & the Nightcats, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Flyers, Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, Hubert Sumlin, the Mannish Boys, and many others.
The band's albums, all for the Northern Blues Music label, include 2000's Defibrillatin', 2005's Bogart's Bounce, 2004's My Kind of Evil, 2006's Kissing in 29 Days, and 2008's Bluelisted. My Kind of Evil, the band's third release, was produced by Fabulous Thunderbirds frontman Kim Wilson and showcases Canadian blues-rocker Colin James on two tracks. Their fourth release, Kissing in 29 Days, showcases the saxophone stylings of the late Ray Charles saxophonist, David "Fathead" Newman. Bluelisted features the considerable West coast guitar stylings of Junior Watson and Little Charlie Baty, of Little Charlie & the Nightcats.
To be sure, given he's barely 30 years old now, Jones has a bright future ahead of him, especially because of his strong work ethic and his belief in the necessity of near-constant touring as a way to build a career. Expect more magic from Jones, who's still evolving as a truly seasoned blues and roots rock songwriter. ~ Richard J. Skelly