What could a teenager possibly know about the blues? Traditionally the blues are about years of hard living and paying a hard price for it, and about serious lovin' and serious loss. Parodies, which frequently are based on kernels of truth, tell us that a bluesman worth the name must know about women, whiskey, and jail, and not necessarily in that order. But all these assumptions and kernels of truth fly right out the window when it comes to the youthful Canadian blues guitarist known as JW-Jones (and yes, the hyphen is in the right place). Born in Ottawa, he wasn't yet 20 years old when he triumphed in a hometown competition known as the Blues Guitar Riff-Off in 1999. Jones built on his early success and with a band he had pulled together the previous year of musicians who were about as young as he was or younger, the guitarist and his JW-Jones Blues Band set out to record an album. He debuted with Defibrillatin' in 2000. The CD features some numbers that were recorded at home, some that were laid down in a studio as demos, as well as a couple of live numbers. While some critics groused a tiny bit about the quality of the release's sound, they quickly followed the complaint with superlatives for Jones' talent. His band is comprised of "Southside" Steve Marriner, the champion in 1999 of the Blues Harp Blow-Off in Ottawa, on harmonica; Pierre Chretien on organ and piano; drummer Steve Hiscox, and upright bass player Nathan Morris. Jones penned seven of the debut album's tracks. Chretien wrote one song, as did Marriner. Before turning to the guitar, Jones was initially interested in the drums. A change of heart brought him to the guitar after he found himself intently listening to and watching an Ottawa guitarist named Tony D. The guitarist's moves so impressed Jones that he hammered questions at Tony D after his shows. The working musician took the time to answer the teenager's questions, provide tips, and recommend a list of recordings. The switch to guitar from drums was cemented when Jones' grandparents gave him an electric guitar late in 1996. Keyboardist Chretien is credited with bringing a jazz influence to Jones' and the band's sound. Jones met Marriner through the Johnny Russell Band when both played with the outfit, as they still do. In 2001, the Maple Blues Awards honored Defibrillatin' with a nomination. The following year, the Maple Blues Awards listed Jones as a nominee for New Artist of the Year and named Marriner as a finalist for Harp Player of the Year. He followed those achievements up with 2002's Bogart's Bounce, featuring help from Fabulous Thunderbirds Kim Wilson and Gene Taylor.
© Linda Seida /TiVo
© Linda Seida /TiVo