Northwest Blues Veteran Lloyd Jones Joins His Alter Ego, Delbert McClinton On ‘Tennessee Run’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

If there was ever a predestined pairing, this might be it as blues singer-songwriter-guitarist Lloyd Jones, who hails from Portland, OR lands in keyboardist/producer Kevin McKendree’s Rock House studio in Franklin, TN for Tennessee Run, which features Delbert McClinton’s band and a few other Nashville cats. Delbert duets with Jones on “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” the Grammy-nominated Teresa James takes her turn on “I Wish I Could Remember Loving You,” and a three-piece horn section. LaRhonda Steele, and background vocalist Etta Britt and Jackie Wilson add to the festive session. McKendree is a top-notch producer who has produced records for Delbert, Tinsley Ellis, and John Hiatt, to name just a few.

If you haven’t heard of Jones until now, that’s understandable. He may well be one of the best under-the-radar blues artists playing today, yet he has recorded six critically acclaimed albums, toured internationally, and racked up dozens of major awards and accolades. He’s a relentless road warrior, hitting festival stages, Delbert’s annual Sandy Beaches Cruises (he’s been a regular on six winter cruises), and clubs all across the land to enthusiastic crowds who can’t get enough of his swampy blues, his back-porch picking, soul, roadhouse two-beats, and old-school rhythm and blues. Early in his career Jones worked with the best such as Earl King, Charlie Musselwhite, Bib Mama Thornton, and Albert Collins. His songs have been covered by Gatemouth Brown, Coco Montoya, Joe Louis Walker, and Curtis Salgado. Fellow Oregonian Robert Cray is one of his biggest admirers.

This recording indeed stemmed from those Delbert Sandy Beaches cruises with all timeless fourteen songs written by Jones and performed, as mentioned by Delbert’s band and some of Music City’s best (yes, some of the best blues recordings in recent years have been made in Nashville, home to McClinton, McKendree, Tom Hambridge, Will Kimbrough, Joe Bonamassa, and  ‘Keb ‘Mo, to name just a few.)  We call these songs timeless as they are cut from a similar cloth, less the country trappings, that have made McClinton one of the foremost roots artists over the last six decades. These songs from Jones would fit into any era since the early days of jump blues, rhythm and blues, and early rock n roll. Here you will hear strains of the New Orleans rhythms (akin to some of the late Dr. John’s music), the simplicity of Memphis music, and, of course, the roadhouse Delbert style blues. It’s a brand that Jones dubbed Swampified American Roots Music.

This stellar band is Jones on piercing guitar and gritty vocals backed by those mentioned as well as these instrumentalists: Kevin McKendree (keys), Steve Mackey (bass), Kenneth Blevins (drums), Reinhardt Meiz (percussion), Jim Hoke  (saxophones), Quentin Ware (trumpet), and Roy Agee (trombone).  The first released single and video depicts the fun, humorous streak of Jones with “Where’s My Phone?” sarcastically pointing out the overdependence most of us have with the hand-held device – “I can’t stand it. I’m at the end of my rope/Gonna have to buy a brand new phone/And spend some dough, maybe I’ll get a cold beer/that would ease my mind/I opened up the frigilator door baby what did I find…/It’s my phone, that’s where it’s at/It’s my cell phone, I GOT IT BACK!”

The album opens with the punchy, horn-infused “You Got Me Good,” complete with a Jones fiery guitar break. “Me and You” rolls along not only with great horns but with the background singers, a lyrical guitar break and tenor honking from Jim Hoke. The band is already cooking with those two cuts, but McKendree’s barrelhouse piano ups the ante for a spirited duet between Jones and Teresa James on “I Wish I Could Remember You.” Finally, five cuts in, the tempo slow for the smoldering blues of “A True Love Never Dies,” with a great horn arrangement by Glenn Holstrom.  The percolating syncopated “Bayou Boys” is a co-write with McKendree and Gary Nicholson, a track that adds percussionist Meiz to the funky mix. Delbert, who seems to have spiritually presided over all that preceded his entrance on “Everybody’s Somebody’s Fool,” clearly finds his soulmate, almost a reflection of himself, as he duets with Jones sans horns.

The chugging groove returns on “Turn Me Loose,” with Jones sounding especially animated vocally and picking, while Hoke is the lone horn blowing up a storm while McKendree pounds the keys in boogie-woogie attack mode. LaRhonda Steele sounds like three voices, singing in unison with Jones on the 50’s R&B styled, “That’s All I Want,” propelled in part by Hoke’s growling, filthy bari sax.  “Love Is Everything” brings back the two co-writers and the background vocalists for one big sound. Then, they pull back to just a quartet for “Chicken Bones” with McKendree on a heavy B3 for a tune that faintly resembles some of those Jerry Reed swamp songs. Wait; that’s until Jones rips off a searing solo and McKendree takes over completely with his swirling organ runs. “Every Time We Meet” features the entire aggregation for the joyous ride, a tune that would make a great live performance track.  “Dilly Dally” is a funk workout with the quartet, driven by Jones’ wah guitar while the closer “Chevrolet Angel” returns the full unit for yet another hard-charging “swampified” run.

Jones and band bring unrelenting energy and contagious, infectious hooks and groves that make it impossible to sit still.  This is an absolute must for Delbert fans and a “must-have” for lovers of high powered, horn-fueled rowdy roadhouse fare.

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