Personnel: JW-Jones (vocals, guitar); Jesse Whiteley (piano).
Audio Mixer: Jason Jaknunas.
Liner Note Author: Bob Margolin.
Recording information: J-Dub's House, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Route 44 Studio, Sebastopol, CA; Sun STudios, Memphis, TN.
No longer a teenage prodigy, Canadian blues guitarist JW-Jones is pushing 30, and on his sixth album, Midnight Memphis Sun, he has decided to emphasize his fidelity to tradition, partially recording the disc in Sun Studio in Memphis, TN, and having veterans Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin guest on three tracks each. Like many latter-day blues revivalists, Jones doesn't hew to any one style of the blues, preferring to move from one subgenre to another on each song. "Off the Market," the opening track, with its punchy horns, initially suggests that he might have wanted to record in the Stax Studio (if it still existed) instead of the Sun Studio; Lowell Fulson's "Love Grows Cold," which follows, is in a jump blues style; "Right on Time" has a '50s R&B sound; Jimmy Reed's "I Don't Go for That" recalls Howlin' Wolf-style Chicago blues; "Mean Streak" nods to Delta blues; and "Make a Move" is arranged like a B.B. King song. The majority of the compositions are Jones originals, although the tunes are so steeped in tradition that it's hard to think of them as new. With his co-writer, Tim Wynne-Jones, Jones seems to have been reading the newspapers since his last album, 2008's Bluelisted, as he tries to steer clear of the housing crisis in "Off the Market," singing, "Don't wanna go sub-prime," and devotes "Born Operator" to condemning Wall Street criminal Bernie Madoff and his "Ponzi schemes." As usual, Jones is more of a guitarist than a singer, not because his voice is bad, but because, with its clear tenor sound (which often recalls Edgar Winter), it sounds more like a pop voice than a blues voice. But then, this is a musician who thinks it's possible to turn fellow countryman Bryan Adams into a blues artist, treating the hit "Cuts Like a Knife" as if it were a blues song. Ten years into his recording career, Jones remains a talented mimic in search of his own style. ~ William Ruhlmann