Blues Bytes


May 2006

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Matt Minglewood

JW-Jones Blues Band

Matt Minglewood
The Story
Norton Records

The JW-Jones Blues Band

Kissing In 29 Days
Northern Blues

This month's Surprise feature highlights CDs from a pair of Canadian artists.

This compassionate CD, The Story (Norton Records), from Matt Minglewood, has already won many accolades, e.g., East Coast Music Award winner for Blues Recording of the Year. Does it really need another positive review? Matt MinglewoodYes, because this acoustic album comes with depth and awareness. Although acoustic, there is lots of musical accompaniment (bass, sax, drums, harmonica, cello, and mandolin). Some may consider it an unplugged album. It is a stark departure from the usual Minglewood blues/rock. Hailing from North Sydney, Cape Breton Island, “down east” culture exudes from Minglewood’s story-telling tunes. Since the late ’70s/early ’80s, when he quickly rose to the top of Canadian blues/rock with a string of successful albums, Minglewood has been a Canadian musical institution.

Are you ready for another chapter in a career that already reads like a quintessential novel? Matt Minglewood has drifted through numerous genres throughout his 40 year career. His most potent power may have been saved until now. Flavoured with a sense of Canadiana, Minglewood performs vocals, guitars, piano, and organ and abandons his guitar god status on The Story. At times the music sounds influenced by country and western. Primarily, the focus is on story-telling songs and evocative lyrics. The 12 Minglewood original songs, along with a remake of the traditional "Patriot Game," are about expressing life experiences. From time to time, you’ll have a smile on your face as you listen to these warm, fond memories. The melodies and lyrics are all very moving. Most songs are laid back, but they are all catchy. This isn’t boring acoustic music which requires a music appreciation course to value it.

The tales begin with the melancholic "Ain’t Nothing Pretty," which details dirty pictures painted by blues. With a simple and repetitive rhythm, "Jealous Man" will have your foot stomping. Here, the gentle yet firm guitars capture the urgency of the song. With a tip of the hat to Jerry Lee Lewis and others ’50s rockers, "Eight Good Reasons" is honky tonk music with Minglewood’s lower register absolutely rumbling on piano. Alex Dean’s sax gives "The Price of Love" a steamy feel. "Peter and Joy" demonstrates the flexibility of Minglewood’s powerful voice as does the beautiful title track whose lyrics will move you to tears. Like a Broadway production, Minglewood can tell a story while transforming it into a show.

Except for those who have seen Minglewood perform The Story live, this album reveals his hidden acoustic brilliance. It also has the innate ability to speak to you and guide you like a best friend. If there ever was a Canadian folk/rock hero, this CD proves Matt Minglewood is worthy of the title.

--- Tim Holek
Freelance Journalist

The JW-Jones BandThe JW-Jones Blues Band, 2005 winners of the Maple Blues Electric Act of the Year Award (the Canadian version of the Handy Awards….sorry, they’ll always be the Handys to me) has previously released three albums of their jazzy jump blues for the Northern Blues label, each disc surpassing its predecessor. Their latest effort for the label, Kissing In 29 Days, continues that trend with ease. Comprised of 14 tracks, 11 originals and three covers, there’s plenty of Jones’ excellent guitar work here.  Jones, all of 25 years of age, shows traces of T-Bone Walker, Gatemouth Brown, and Albert King in his playing, and his performances on this disc will verify his standing as one of Canada’s top guitarists. In addition, his vocal style, which has always been a pretty solid fit with the style he plays, has improved this time around; as he sounds more relaxed and confident.

The covers include Jones’ take on the immortal Ray Charles’ classic, “Hallelujah I Love Her So,” a bold selection which ends up being one of the best vocal performances on the disc, with a great assist from guest David “Fathead” Newman’s tenor sax. “Hey Girl,” a nice tribute to Little Milton Campbell (who passed away a month before he was slated to make an appearance on the album), and Jimmy McCracklin’s “Pretty Little Sweet Thing,” are the other two covers. As far as the originals go, they are all well done, and Jones’ band, with the Wind-Chill Factor Horns and the ever-present Brian James on tenor sax, is smoking throughout. 

Standout tracks include “All My Money,” “I Don’t Want To Hear,” the jumping instrumental “Parasomnia,” the Jimmy Reed tribute “Got Me Chasin’,” and the closer, “Here She Comes,” with another strong sax break from Newman. Also produced by Jones, this is clearly his best effort yet and it will be a challenge for blues fans to sit still while listening to this one.

--- Graham Clarke


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