JW-Jones: Belmont Boulevard Review

Canadian bluesman JW-Jones has been releasing music since the start of the century, and he’s not about to stop any time soon. Jones has grown as an artist since his debut Defibrillatin’ was released in 2000: he still plays the blues, no doubt, but he’s not as strictly tied to the genre’s sound and structure as he was on his first record. Jones’s latest album Belmont Boulevard, released in October, shows the Ottawa, Ontario-based guitarist’s continued progression as he whips together blues, rock, and swing into an album that sounds far more fun than it does serious.

Recorded in Nashville and produced by Tom Hambridge, Belmont Boulevard is the eighth installment in Jones’s growing catalogue. Through his 15 years as a professional musician, Jones has toured extensively, sought collaborations with fellow blues artists (including Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds and Charlie Musselwhite), and even scored kudos from Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd. Continuously supported by fans and those close to him within the music community, Jones decided to bring a personal air to Belmont Boulevard, a direction Jones claims he didn’t pursue on past projects. Of course, playing the blues is often an incredibly personal experience; yet a quick glance at track names like “Cocaine Boy” and “What Would Jimmie Do?” (the latter written for Jones’s personal hero Jimmie Vaughan) reveals unique stories rather than general themes. But Jones doesn’t let the album get too serious: in “Magic West Side Boogie,” Jones gives his voice a rest and speaks to the joy of music through his rapidly riffing guitar.

“Magic West Side Boogie” is one of several danceable songs on Belmont Boulevard. The album opens with “Love Times Ten,” a zippy countryesque number that gets a little corny when Jones counts to ten near the end but is otherwise a fun track that practically begs listeners to shake their hips in time with the beat. “Never Worth It” joins “Magic West Side Boogie” and “Cocaine Boy” as one of the album’s rock-trending songs, while “Coming After Me” and “What’s Inside of You” dig into the full bluesy sound of the genre’s modern era. The emotion present on “Coming After Me” and the impressive soloing on “Watch Your Step” make these tracks two of Jones’s best, though “Magic West Side Boogie” and “Cocaine Boy” are also remarkable for the fun-loving and somber intensity they alternately provide.

Jones is at a point in his career where he doesn’t really need to prove himself as a blues artist – he’s already received tons of awards and nods of encouragement from the music industry and several of its MVPs. On Belmont Boulevard, Jones leaves his comfort zone behind to bring an air of individuality to his work, and if a number 9 debut on Billboard’s Blues Chart is any indication, his efforts have proved fruitful. Belmont Boulevard is not a strict blues record, but it didn’t need to be. Jones can invoke the blues and intertwine compatible sounds if that’s what speaks to him – we all know he’s got the chops to back it up.

The Review: 8/10

Can’t Miss Tracks

–  Magic West Side Blues
–  Watch Your Step
–  Coming After Me
–  Cocaine Boy

The Big Hit

–  Magic West Side Blues

Review by Meghan Roos

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