Skip to Content Skip to Navigation

Dennis Jones: CD Reviews

Interviews

"Playin' the L.A. Blues" The day Dennis Jones spoke with VG was, coincidentally, an especially good day. After a couple of recent jams with friends who were playing through '65 Fender Super Reverbs, he realized what he'd been missing, and was hot on it's trail. . . "Today I found one with CTS speakers, and bought it," he said triumphantly. "I found what the hell I've been looking for for years. After I spent thousands of dollars on other amps, there it was!" So it may be a little surprising that Jones' new CD, "Passion For The Blues", doesn't sound like a guy still looking for his tone. Rather, the record is full of hard blues and rock that show his influences. "In my teens it was Hendrix, Johnny Winter, and Jimmy Paige. Then the Kings - B.B., Freddie, and Albert. I used to tell everyone it was the three J's and three K's! And those players still keep me going and keep me learning." Jones' urge to learn stems from growing up in Maryland, "out in the sticks, out in the boonies," where an older brother hipped him to the likes of Bob Dylan, Hendrix, and The Who. And his mom listened to gospel and soul. "I'd hear James Brown and Al Green, and then the next record would be Paul Revere and the Raiders," he laughs. As for playing an instrument, Jones first wanted to be a drummer, but. . . "They were too loud. So they got me a small guitar and amp when I was about 13. By 15, I had a Marshall stack in the living room and they wished they'd gotten me the drums!" Jones' new CD is the culmination of the trio work he has done for the last 15 years. It's an eclectic mix of blues, rock, jazz and even country. "I've always listened to a gumbo of music," he noted. "Right now, I really like the funk style of blues that's kind of popping up. It's such an incredible force. It just throws you around." Its influence, he says, will end up on his next recording. Meanwhile, Jones is hoping to use "Passion For The Blues" to expand his reach beyond L.A. "I want to get out and play around the world," he said. "They treat me real well here, but L.A. is not a blues town." So the plan is to take the show to Texas and Mississippi - places Jones considers "the next level". Anyplace along the route he considers the next level best be ready!

John Heidt - Vintage Guitar Magazine (Oct 1, 2006)

An Interview with Dennis Jones, a hurricane that changing the blues landscape in his path

"Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss."

Dennis Jones: Blues with no limits

Sizzling hot guitar solos. Smooth and soulful vocals. High-energy stage performance. Backed by a rhythm section that is second to none, this IS Dennis Jones. Jones was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The drums were his first passion and they still form his relentless grooves. Check out a live show, and you’ll instantly agree, Dennis Jones’s band ROCKS the blues like NO other! With original songs, some of which are sure to become classics, Dennis’s feet are firmly rooted in the past, yet his heart and soul are connected to the present. He writes songs that seamlessly blend the best of both worlds, presenting a unique and contemporary style of American rock and blues. And unlike some others, he isn’t afraid to tackle the controversial issues of today.

 

Since 2003, Dennis has released four successful albums on his own label, Blue Rock Records. The newly released CD, My Kinda Blues, features legendary guest musicians, Kenny Neal, and Guitar Shorty.

Dennis is no stranger to film either. Deep Blues from his first CD, Falling Up, was featured in a 2006 Lions Gate movie, Sea of Fear. Finally, Dennis is one of several artists featured in the much-anticipated Babe’s & Ricky’s Inn and "Mama" Laura Mae Gross. He opened for such greats as Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour. Dennis won the International Blues Competition, Memphis, 2004, as part of Zac Harmon’s band and in May 2012, was honored to present the Awards for BB King Entertainer of the Year.

Dennis and his band continue to work hard to achieve the next level of musical success. Increased touring opportunities and greater exposure to new fans will undoubtedly make this band a household name. So if the same old blues has got you down, then it’s time to check out the Dennis Jones Band!

 

Interview by Michael Limnios

 

What do you learn about yourself from the blues, what does the blues mean to you?

Blues music is my therapy. Writing songs has a way of helping me understand, and deal with, life, love, and loss. Each individual life experience, good or bad, is unique, yet its resulting pain or glory is often understood, and even felt, by others, as part of our common human experience. This is what I love about the blues.

Blues music is also part of my heritage, and a birth right, which I cherish and want to be remembered.

 

Photo by Bob Uecke

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD BLUESMAN and SONGWRITER?

The fact that I have had lots of experiences in my life is what makes me a good bluesman and songwriter. It’s hard to understand true happiness if you have never felt despair, and I’ve been there. Other than this, my passion for making and playing blues music certainly helps.

 

What characterize Dennis Jones sound and music philosophy?

My sound is a combination of all music that I played and grew up with. At any given time, any of these elements can come to the surface. I always consider the song itself as most important. A great song will last forever. But a great guitar solo in a bad song will not last.

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about the blues music?

Robert Jr Lockwood shared great stories with me, and Guitar Shorty shared not only great stories, but hands-on guitar techniques with me as well.

 

How and where did you get the inspiration for your song?

I am inspired by conversations with my friends, and just watching things in the world. A few years ago, I was talking to Cedric Burnside and Bill Wax while seated on a bus– that’s where the idea for the song, Same Train, came from. But my songs can also come from other sources, and I often think of ideas and start writing lyrics while just sitting home playing guitar.

 

Tell me about the beginning of Dennis Jones Band. How do you describe Sam Correa and Michael Turner?

Over the years, I have had several variations of included instruments in my band, e.g. keyboards, horns. But my trio combination right now feels better and more right than ever before. Michael Turner and Sam Correa are the best combination of musicians that I have ever played with – there is something special about the dynamic that the three of us create that I cannot explain, but fans can see and hear it. I do not have any barriers or limits on what we can do.

 

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?

The best moments of my career are yet to come, though there have been many great ones already. The worst moments are behind me, and I do not wish to dwell on them.

 

What is the “feel” you miss most nowadays from the Blackhead and 80s era?

It was a big part of my life at the time, but now I don’t miss it at all. I enjoyed being part of a positive movement in which black artists were crossing over to many genres of music.

 

Why did you think that the “Blues Poetry” continue to generate such a devoted following?

It’s real and it represents what we go through as humans every day.

 

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

The most interesting part of my life is today, the present. All of the hard work that I have put in over the years is finally starting to pay off, and I am no longer distracted by a day job, nor by any human drama. Now I focus each day on becoming a better musician and better human being.

 

 

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians thinking of pursuing a career in the craft?

My advice is to find someone who has been doing it a long time, and ask a lot of questions. If you are not a natural songwriter, then take classes to learn, and practice with other musicians. You can only get so good on your own in your parents’ basement.

 

Are there any memories opening for Johnny Winter, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour, which you’d like to share with us?

Opening for Johnny Winter was a dream come true. In his heyday, no one could touch Johnny on slide guitar, and I mean NOBODY! It was hard for me not to jump on stage and play Mother Earth with him. The other experiences were enjoyable too.

 

Tell me a few things about your meet with Zac Harmon, which memory as part of Zac’s band makes you smile?

Zac and I remain very good friends to this day. Winning the International Blues Competition (IBC) in 2004 is one of my best memories of playing in Zac’s band. Plus every time I got on stage with Zac Harmon, I knew it was going to be a good night. Our styles were different, and that is why we fit together so well.

Other good memories were of females taking off their tops to see our reactions, and people throwing money onstage, and I’m not talking change.

 

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?

It is better to be a bad you (i.e. Dennis Jones) than to be a good somebody else. I took this advice to heart.

 

What’s the difference and similarity between the European blues scene (European blues musicians) and US?

The only difference is where the musicians live. The blues has no borders.

 

Tell me a few things about your experience in Europe?

I had a great experience playing in Germany when I was younger. When I toured France and Italy more recently, the response was also really good. I enjoy other cultures – the food, the arts, the people – it was a great experience. I am looking forward to playing again in Europe in the near future.

 

What’s the best jam you ever played in? What are some of the most memorable gigs you've had?

The best jam I ever played in was on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise, Pacific Coast, with Chico Banks, Zac Harmon, Debra Coleman, Chris Duarte, and a few others. It was just one of those moments that I will never forget.

The most memorable gig I ever had was playing a Teen Center Dance at my High School for the first time, when I was 17 years old. A more recent memorable gig was opening the Doheny Blues Festival in 2011 on the main stage, where I have seen and heard so many great blues acts over the years.

 

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your recording time with Guitar Shorty?

Guitar Shorty walked in to record You Took My Baby with me, for the newly released CD, My Kinda Blues. Shorty opened his guitar case, and then cords, pedals, and the kitchen sink fell out. Ten minutes later, he plugged in, and played the best guitar solo on that song that I have ever heard. We had dinner, I shook his hand, and we said good night.

 

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us. Why do think that is? Give one wish for the BLUES

Blues is the core of most styles of American music, from surf to rockabilly, and even soul and funk. The blues is there. I wish the Blues would continue to mature and evolve, and not always rely upon what has already been done.

 

Which things do you prefer to do in your free time? What is your MUSIC DREAM? Happiness is……

I spend my free time with my friends and my lady, and at least once a day, with my guitar. My dream is to make a good living playing, writing, and performing the music I love, and sharing music with blues fans everywhere.

Happiness is internal. People need to love and respect themselves before they will ever give a damn about anyone else. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t, and it guarantees them a miserable life. Many people focus on money and other external sources to try to appear happy to others, which only makes them unhappier. Fortunately I have learned and loved a lot in my life, and things keep getting better and better for me.

 

Dennis Jones - Official website

 

 

 

Dennis Jones is hard to miss at Festivals or on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. Thin and muscular and sporting a cowboy hat and boots that make him appear even taller than his 6' 3" frame, fans and friends are greeted with an infectious smile when they make eye contact. His father worked with thoroughbred race horses and his grandfather also sported a cowboy hat. Dennis' soft politeness comes from his southern Maryland upbringing and was a welcome attribute in interviewing him for Southland Blues Magazine.

He got his first guitar at age thirteen and his older brother was part of the Woodstock generation and turned young Dennis on to the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. Being a quick study and improving his playing after purchasing an Ovation Breadwinner electric guitar (well over a grand now on eBay these days), by fifteen he had his first band, "Foxfire", and was playing high school dances and neighborhood parties. Since he lived in the country, Dennis would even play at local barn parties that would gather all of the local musicians together under on roof and play for hours. The other musicians in "Foxfire" were older than Dennis and he absorbed their talents and being 6' 2" already, his age difference wasn't apparent. They played R&B and Motown and being under-age, at some clubs he would have to stay near the bathroom door and not go outside. Dennis played some rough places in his youth and even performed a gig at a minimum security prison in Jessup, Maryland.

Dennis came to a point in his life where he needed to make a change as everything was changing to disco and the big clubs in his area were closing. He went to New York for two weeks and then to California for two weeks. He decided to stay there in Los Angeles. Dennis' musical influences were the "Three 'K's"; Albert King, B.B. King and Freddie King and the "Three 'J's": Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page and Johnny Winter.

Dennis states that "The first band I played in out here was called "B-Mex" (Black-Mexican) with a Mexican guy singing and three brothers playing. It was more of a Rock, R&B and funk kind of band that was both powerful and original and we were wined and dined by a few record companies. We were to be signed by Virgin Records, but the man that was going to sign us got dropped so it didn't go any further."

"I then started my own band called "Blackhead" that was Blues-based Rock. About 12 years ago I decided to start my own Blues band and do my own singing and I've been the "Dennis Jones Band" ever since. I've been through several different players over the years. Michael Turner has been my drummer for the past eight years and Tony Ruiz has been with me on bass for about three years. I had worked as a quartet for awhile with a B3 player, but decided to trim it down to a trio. The original format of bands that I had played in as a kid was always a trio so I went back to power trio stuff that I was doing at age 17 and 18. Playing with the kind of musicians in my band now, it really works. It feels and sounds full and everybody sings," Dennis expounded.

Asked about his choice in musical weaponry as his Ovation Breadwinner was sold long ago, Dennis spoke enthusiastically about his Fender Stratocaster and Gibson Les Paul and Firebird guitars. He has an endorsement with DR Strings.

Dennis would also join Zac Harmon & The Midsouth Blues Revue on the side when it didn't conflict with his own band's gigs. I was there to witness that magical performance at the Daisy Theater in Memphis, Tennessee at the IBC Awards in 2004 when Zac had Dennis take a guitar solo during their set that seemed to lift the roof off of the building. Our readers should still be proud to know that Zac Harmon and The Midsouth Blues Revue came away that night with the top honor of being the Best Blues Band of the International Blues Challenge.

Due to both of their popularities now, they did start to have scheduling conflicts and Zac sought a replacement guitarist. Dennis has gone on both of the Pacific Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises and has jammed with several of the performers there.

We discussed the future of the Blues and agreed that the Blues has to evolve to successfully capture the next generation of fans. It will have to start thinking outside of the box. "Look at Muddy Waters-he wasn't 'traditional'-he was inventing things. he was the first one to put an electrified harp in his band like that and make it something new. We shouldn't stop in trying to go ahead and try new things as the Blues evolves", suggests Dennis passionately.

Philosophizing how today's kids can discover the Blues, Dennis suggest that, "The Blues is one-dimensional for them. They don't realize that it is like a rainbow of different shades of Blues for them. You have your hardcore Mississippi Delta Blues, Chicago Blues-it's all relative. It's all one tree with different branches. This tree comes from the same root. It's so colorful. You listen to someone like T-Bone Walker and you can see how Jazz and Blues are cousins. He blended it together so well you can't tell whether he's playing Jazz or Blues. He was best friends with Charlie Christian.

Dennis has toured Europe and he tries to play about six club dates each month and the Blues Festivals in the warmer months. His two CDs "Falling Up" and "Passion For The Blues" are available on his website: www.dennisjonescentral.com. In a few weeks he'll be working on this third CD.

Try to catch him locally in January at the Arcadia Blues Club on January 5th, Martini Blues on January 12th, Harvelle's, Santa Monica on January 25th and Humphreys on January 26th.
Get To Know Bluesman Dennis Jones

If you ever attended a concert by Dennis Jones, you might think Surf City loves blues the best. But although Jones' genre is unmistakably the blues, most people can't help but notice the resemblance in style to Jimi Hendrix. Jones plays at two of our local night spots, Martini Blues and the Blue Café, and is scheduled to appear at Martini Blues on Feb. 23.

Q: You live in L.A. and play there a lot, too. Are the crowds different between L.A. and Huntington Beach?
A: I don't find them to be. In most places, I find people are similar if they like the blues. And it isn't just an age thing because I get older fans, but young people are coming around as well. When you like the blues, you feel it and there's a common thread. The similarities exist even with people around the world, although some of the audiences in Europe had a different characteristic. They seemed to hang onto every note, every lyric. They were extremely attentive as if they studied what I did. But blues crowds are basically the same everywhere. They feel the music and like to have a good time, but they may be a little more serious than those who are into other kinds of music.

Q: Are you working on a new album right now?
A: Yes, what I'm doing right now is pre-production. I'm writing and putting songs together,and in about two weeks, I'll be going into the studio to record. I'm very excited about that.

Q: What's the album called?
A: I normally have the name by now, but I don't know. It'll just come to me one day, and I'll go with it. It's like one of the songs I recently completed. I'd written the music years ago, but never put lyrics to it. Just the other day the lyrics were there – it was just the right time.

Q: Are there any tours or special appearances coming up?
A: I've begun to look at some things for the summer, but right now my focus is on getting a talent book or agency to handle bookings for me. I was able to do an overseas tour last April, and while it was an amazing experience, it was a huge undertaking because I did all the legwork myself. I want to do an international tour again. but on a much bigger scale. So I'll be concentrating on getting some representation to help me with it.

Q: How is the timing for that?
A: I believe that timing is everything and now it seems right for me to do this. Not only because of what's happening with the blues today, but I feel there is usually a resurgence of interest in artistic genres when the country and the world are going through some tough times.
It's those times when the songwriters and musicians who have something to say are able to step up to the plate and really take hold. For all of these reasons, I'm ready to go to the next level.

By DIANNE AUSTIN
FOR THE OC REGISTER
Dianne Austin - The Wave (Feb 21, 2008)
Americana Root music comes in many dialects. Blues is a tongue unto itself and serves to illustrate. On the one side you hear place names like Delta, Chicago, Memphis, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and Piedmont. On the other hand, you will hear descriptivism like electric, rock, gospel, jump, hot and cool.

The Blues is a living language that can only be learned by listening to those who speak it well, and when you hear it spoken well it is a visceral experience. Instinctually, you jump right in emotionally and become part of the story. Whatever the tale of woe, you and the performer work on it until you forget the sad side and hold on together until you reach that special joyful release which is the Blues, in dance, hollering back or applauses.

With this in mind I would like to introduce you to Dennis Jones and his Band. He is on the leading modern edge of Blues-Rock. Influenced by the three “J's” (Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Page) and the Three “K's” (B.B. King, Freddie King, and Albert King) he has fused a lifetime of music and Americana Roots into something very special and current.

It is amazing how tight this trio is, Michael Turner on Drums, Tony Ruiz on Bass and Dennis on guitar, the Dennis Jones Band is coming to San Diego North County, so we will all have a chance to experience him live at the Blues Cabaret in the California Center for the Arts.

Until then and to prepare yourself, visit his website and purchase both his latest CD “Passion for the Blues” and “Falling Up,” and since I gush when I try to describe these beautiful works of Blues-Rock, I will let the CDs speak for themselves. www.dennisjonescentral.com and www.myspace.com/dennisjonesband.com.
The Dennis Jones Phenomenon - His Passion for the Blues

When you see Dennis Jones perform onstage for the first time playing his blues on the guitar it’s certain you’ll immediately become awestruck. Mesmerized may be a better word. Even though you’re watching and listening to it, it’s still pretty hard to believe. The tall, handsome man in the western shirt and jeans with the signature Stetson atop his head has a commanding presence, but somehow, eyes always fall to those indefatigable hands. They’re quite large, and it doesn’t stand to reason, since they move so fast. The kind of sound they are able to extricate from a simple, manufactured thing like a steel guitar seems otherworldly. But extricate they do. When you witness it, you find yourself at the end of the night shaking your head in disbelief.

The next time, it’s somehow easier to take it all in and really listen to Dennis’ songs. For one thing, you can finally avert your eyes from his hands and focus more on the sound and quality of the music he’s written. When you do, the realization hits you that the guy is a talented songwriter as well as an amazing musician. Dennis Jones has a passion for the blues — it’s why his latest CD has that phrase as its title.

I had the pleasure of talking with Jones at Martini Blues in Orange County, California before his performance that evening.

EW: Your background is like a potpourri of styles and genres. In the past, you’ve played a lot of different kinds of music — rock n roll, R&B, jazz and the blues. Everyone who’s seen you perform feels your obvious kinship with Jimi Hendrix. Who else has influenced your style?

Jones: Since I was a kid I was influenced by the R&B that was played in my home. I’ve also been influenced by guys like Frank Zappa, Jimmy Page and Johnny Winter. With R&B it was the Kings—Albert and BB King and others I heard on a regular basis. To me though, a good song is a good song. I like certain kinds of country music tunes -- if they’re good songs. I’m a songwriter first and a musician second. When I became a songwriter, I opened my mind up to a lot more things that I would normally have not listened to because it was not “cool” – you know, sometimes it’s peer pressure. But being my loner self, I drew my own conclusions anyway about what’s good and what’s not. That enabled me to listen to a wider spectrum of sounds and I developed an appreciation of what I call “American Music”—you know, things like rock-a-billy, jazz, blues and gospel. It all has a fiber or thread running through it that’s the same.

Jones grew up in the outskirts of Baltimore. It was the kind of environment he calls “the boonies” -- there was a lot of land and a lot of time. If you didn’t develop interests, hobbies, and things to do on your own, you’d walk around in a cloud of boredom too much of the time. As a boy, Dennis yearned to fill up his mind and his heart with something he loved doing — something he could be passionate about. At first, he thought it might be the drums.

EW: So you told your parents you wanted to play the drums at an early age and they reacted with “But that’s so loud!” It was then that they got you a guitar. Am I right?

Jones: Right. I was thirteen years old. I had wanted drums and they said no. But Christmas was coming and I said, “What about a guitar?” They agreed. I had a little plastic amp and a cheap guitar and a year or two later I had a Marshall Stack and. . . (laughing)

EW: (Laughing with him) And they thought “Dear Lord, what have we done?”

Jones: Yeah. I think they may have wished they had listened about the drums! By the time I was fifteen I was in my first band. So I picked it up pretty quickly and I absorbed everything I heard — all the old albums I listened to. It was basically ear training. After a few formal lessons to find out about basic chords and structures, I just took off playing on my own.

He “took off” and never stopped. The man has been driving hard ever since. Playing gigs with several bands throughout his youth, even while doing a military stint for a time, Dennis never gave up forging ahead with his music. While stationed in Europe, he was able to gather experience playing there as well.

Jones moved to L.A. in 1985 and continued to play his guitar in various settings until he joined the Zac Harmon Band and was featured on Harmon’s CD Live at Babe and Ricky’s. During that time he co-wrote a song for the album "The Blues According to Zachariah". Jones has played with such notables as Guitar Shorty and Kenny Neal, and now for the last several years, it’s been The Dennis Jones Band all the way. The trio, with bass player Tony Ruiz and drummer Michael Turner, has made its mark and secured a faithful following of people in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

EW: So, you’re going to be taking your act to another level soon. When will the tour be?

Jones: This coming year. I just got my distribution for 2007 in Japan and I’ll hopefully be saturated enough to play there. I’ll also be going to Italy for two weeks. That’s my goal — to get into Europe. Europeans have an appreciation that’s amazing. I mean, if I lived in the south — in New Orleans, Florida or Mississippi, that’s another story. But living in L.A. and it being the youth oriented town it is—it’s not easy. Everybody here wants to be hip. All the adults want to dress like their kids and it’s all about KROQ, rap and hip hop. There are still a lot of people in this town who love the blues, but many of them don’t know about the venues or even about the artists. It’s more just a grass roots thing. It’s a lot of work and a lot of promotion and I’ve been fortunate enough — I’ve been doing it for so long -- that I do draw a crowd when I play. But, you know -- it’s not easy, it’s not easy.

EW: Tell me about your current CD Passion for the Blues. What’s the main difference between this one and your last, "Falling Up"?

Jones: The first one was more of an eclectic album of all the songs that I’d been writing for awhile. It was more a stereotype of a blues album, because the songs —one was jazzy, one was country, and it was just a compilation of all that I could do, stemming from a blues center. It was a good collection that I wanted to record, and I know that the label wanted me to do it. With the blues, you are pretty much stuck in a slot — everything is just that — the blues. So with Falling Up it was great that they enabled me to do something a little different. Passion for the Blues is more a cohesive representation of what I’m doing now onstage. It’s more a blues/rock style—it’s what I wanted to do.

EW: It’s amazing to watch you play. I can’t even believe it sometimes and you’ve mentioned before that your hands are prone to cramping because they’re so large.

Jones: Yeah. That’s why I stopped playing small necked guitars. All my guitars now have big necks because my hands will cramp. I just make sure they’re all large necks — it’s what I have to do.

EW: So you’ll be here at Martini Blues on New Year's Eve?

Jones: Yes, uh huh.

EW: That should be a party! (laughing)

Jones: (Laughing as well) Well, I’ll be partyin’ — I don’t know about anybody else!

EW: I’ve been witness to that. I was here when it was your birthday. Now that was a party!

Jones: It was. I’m looking forward to doing it again.

Dennis will be rockin’ the house and passing the passion around with his amazing music for a brand new year.

To learn more about the Dennis Jones Band go to www.dennisjonescentral.com . To listen to some of Dennis Jones’ music you can visit www.myspace.com/dennisjonesband .