Blues Bytes


September 2017

Johnny Ray Jones
Feet Back In The Door
Moondogg Records

Johnny Ray Jones

Johnny Ray Jones, dubbed “The Godson of Soul”, has enjoyed a long career that has seen him perform with artists like Big Joe Turner and the Red Devils, open for Leon Russell, John Mayall, and Steppenwolf. The great Sam “Bluzman” Taylor was his vocal coach and Tina Mayfield (wife of Percy) was his godmother. All of this looks pretty impressive on the old résumé, but the proof of Jones’ bonafides can be found in his debut release, Feet Back In The Door (Moondogg Records).

The roots of this release go back to the mid ’90s, when Jones and his friends --- guitarist Tony Braunagel, keyboardist Marty Grebb, saxman Joe Sublett, and drummer Johnny Lee Schell --- assembled a group and recorded four songs. Finally completing the project a couple of decades later, one of the 1995 songs remains, the previously-mentioned Sam Taylor’s “Hole In Your Soul,” which includes the quintet listed above and guitarist Coco Montoya on lead guitar.

The remaining nine tracks, eight of which are remakes of classic tunes, cover a wide range of blues styles, from the smooth urban blues of Arthur Adams’ title track, to a funky reading of Danny Timms and Jodi Siegel’s “Come Up And See Me Sometime,” to the Stax-flavored blues of the Albert King chestnut “High Cost of Loving,” to Barry Levenson’s reflective “Hard Times Won.”

The J Geils Band’s hit “Love-Itis” gets a spirited reworking, while the Z.Z. Hill classic “I’m A Blues Man” is faithfully interpreted and may be the best cut on the disc. Allen Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl” (made popular from Ernie K-Doe’s 60’s version) gets the Crescent City treatment, as do “Hole In Your Soul” and Leon Russell’s “Hearts Have Turned To Stone.” Jones wrote the lone original, the moody “In The Heart Of The City,” having been inspired by walking alone and lonely through the streets of L.A.

While Grebb only appears on “Hole In Your Soul” (playing piano and baritone sax), the remainder of the original line-up remains in place, complemented by James “Hutch” Hutchinson on bass, Mike Finnigan on organ and piano, Lenny Castro on percussion, Darrell Leonard on trumpet, Jimmy Powers on harmonica, Lee Thornburg on trumpet and flugelhorn, Paulie Sierra on tenor sax, and background singers Julie Delgado, Nita Whitaker, and Teresa James.

Jones has a warm, inviting vocal style that doesn’t really sound like anyone else you’ve ever heard. That being said, he does an excellent job interpreting these varied set of tunes with conviction, soul, and grit. Feet Back In The Door is a fine set of blues, R&B and soul and hopefully will lead to another release soon from Johnny Ray Jones and friends.

--- Graham Clarke


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