Artist: Johnny Ray Jones
Album: Feet Back In The Door
Release Date: 07.7.2017
He sounds as if he’s been doing this for years, and even though this is only his first solo record, Johnny Ray Jones has a pedigree worthy of the best blues singers. Jones has long been a fixture in the Los Angeles blues scene, named “the Godson of Soul.” Sam “Bluzman” Taylor was his vocal coach. Percy Mayfield’s wife, Tina, was his godmother and he’s been around long enough to have performed with Big Joe Turner and open shows for Leon Russell, John Mayall, and Steppenwolf. Now the world gets to hear his uniquely soulful voice on a complete album for which sessions began 22 years ago.
That’s right. Ace producer Tony Braunagel, Marty Grebb, Joe Sublett, and co-producer guitarist Johnny Lee Schell recorded four tracks with Jones in 1995 that remained unreleased until now. Those tunes, together with six more recorded in 2015 and 2016, comprise this mix of straight-ahead blues and R&B.
Fellow LA. Bluesman Arthur Adams wrote the opening title track, guitarist Coco Montoya guests on “Hole in Your Soul,” and Jones does great takes on Z.Z. Hill’s “I’m a Bluesman” and Allen Toussaint’s “Certain Girl.” You might recall “Love-Itis” from the J. Geils Band ‘70s version, and Jones interprets Leon Russell’s “Hearts Have Turned to Stone.” The only original here is “In the Heart of the City,” inspired by walking alone in downtown L.A.
Backed by this set of musicians, including keyboardist Mike Finnigan and bassist Hutch Hutchinson and horns on seven tracks, it’s a can’t-miss effort. It’s hard to describe Jones’ voice but no denying the inherent conviction in his approach. He really stands singularly among blue-eyed soul singers— he’s got a bit of Long John Baldry, a bit of Malford Milligan, and a more seasoned JJ Grey, but he doesn’t directly resemble any of them. So, not only does Jones have his feet back in the door. That door is now open wider than ever.