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Saturday night's alright for dancin': Lloyd Jones at the Fair
When a band halfway around the world listens to all your music, learns all your songs, and then prepares itself just for you, the artist, to drop by, plug in and let loose on a foreign audience, one might think you've reached a point where you can rest on your laurels and ease back on the throttle a bit.
Well, Lloyd Jones knows better, but he isn't taking it for granted either.
“I was invited over there by this band that has the same instrumentation as mine – with two horns – and they said they had learned all my stuff,” said Jones, who last year traveled twice to Denmark to play with a group of musically accomplished strangers; he plans to return in October. “And you know what, they did. It all just worked out so well.”
From his hometown of Portland, Ore., Jones has been spinning straw into musical gold for the better part of 30 years. He and his band, The Lloyd Jones Struggle, first lit up the Main Stage of the San Juan County Fair back in 2001, another gig in which those in that audience may recall “worked out” pretty darn fantastically, too.
This time around, Jones is headed back to the fair, along with his band, with more fuel in the tank, a bit of a chip on his shoulder and a new recording in tow, 2011’s “Doin’ What It Takes” (Reference Records), which, in a phrase, pretty much sums up the course that even a 10-time winner of the Cascade Blues Association's “Best R & B Act”and 2007 inductee into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame must follow to keep an acclaimed musical career on track, while banging’ out rhythm and blues in the age of I-tunes and the Internet.
Jones says that traditional routes in landing a gig or marketing a recording have withered or fallen by the wayside over the last five years. A band leader-slash-songwriter must adapt, he said, adding motivation behind “Doin’ What It Takes” partly came from the upheaval and chaos of the music industry.
“It was a project started out of the frustration,” he said. “But I’m very delighted and happy with the recording. The band knocked it out of the park.”
Of late, Jones finds creative sparks not only in chaos, but in his own backyard as well. His early 2011 solo release, “Highway Bound” (Underworld Records), features 16 songs, mostly classic blues covers and a few originals, and himself on vocals and an acoustic guitar (Charlie Musselwhite and Curtis Salgado lend vocals on respective tracks). It’s a departure from the electric Chicago-style rhythm and blues which has become the trademark of Jones and the Struggle. And a breath of fresh air.
“It’s like what I do in the backyard,” he said of the solo acoustic recording. “It’s actually the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”
Regardless of industry turmoil, Denmark gigs aside, Jones, a two-time winner of the Washington Blues Society’s “Best Songwriter” of the year, who’s shared the stage with the likes of Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughn, Robert Cray, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Etta James and Taj Mahal, to name a few, knows where the pool of inspiration lies.
It’s on the stage, in the studio, on the road, with fellow musicians and friends, and sometimes in his own backyard.