11/23/20 - Rock & Blues Muse Review - By Mike O’Cull
Los Angeles blues guitarist and vocalist Dennis Jones dropped his seventh album as a leader, Soft Hard & Loud, in October of 2020 and the set is as hot as this year has been crazy. Jones is a tasteful powerhouse of a musician who touches on every emotion and comments on current events in his original songs while still being able to rip fiery guitar solos with the best in the scene. His contemporary take on the blues includes funk, rock, and reggae influences that make him unique and identifiable. His personality informs every note and word on Soft Hard & Loud and makes each song an individual world he allows us to visit. Jones co-produced it with his brawny rhythm section of drummer Raymond Johnson and bassist Cornelius Memes and the core of the record is the sound of these three deeply connected musicians sharing brain waves.
Jones is a seasoned player who has logged thousands of hours and road miles practicing his craft. He won the International Blues Competition in Memphis in 2004 as part of Zac Harmon’s Band, opened for important artists like Johnny Winter, Buddy Guy, Dick Dale, and the Experience Hendrix Tour, and has gone on tour in Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, Switzerland, and Slovenia. His guitar work is informed by Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and Billy Gibbons and gets injected into songs that allow him to take those foundational sounds to places and levels that reach beyond simple classic rock emulation. His music is thoroughly modern but Jones’ mix of vintage knowledge underneath it also makes it timeless and emotional. He’s one of the freshest blues artists out there right now and has what it takes to get big.
Jones starts the record with the funky “Revolves Around You,” which tells an honest story about a stressful relationship with a narcissistic partner. The track is dynamic, bold, and features some outstanding and atypical lead guitar playing that immediately gives Jones the aura of an innovator. He doesn’t lean on genre cliches but creates new melodies that point towards his own vision of how things should be. Prepare to be instantly hooked. “I Love The Blues” is a lowdown and slow Albert King-ish song that relates Jones’ feelings about what he does. His guitar magic here is quieter but no less impressive than his more blazing solos and his vocals easily handle the heavy lifting that makes this one fly.
Jones starts hitting harder on “Like Sheep.” It’s a gritty rock song that asks a lot of heavy questions about people and society that are thought-provoking and relevant. The groove is hard and funky and Jones laces power chords and slinky lead lines through it like a master. He flirts with a Ben Harper-esque vibe around the edges of this one but ultimately holds position in his own lane. “Front Door Man” is an upbeat shuffle with a taste of Jimi to it. Jones lays down some intense blues licks over a driving pocket and easily lights up the sky.
“I Hate Hate” is a reggae track that finds Jones delivering more social commentary. “I hate hate but I don’t hate you” he sings, using the song to speak positive ideas about race and unity that are particularly important to hear in our present highly divided condition. Jones spits truth fearlessly over a bottomless beat and opens his heart to us all. “Burn The Plantation Down” takes a more aggressive approach to social justice and puts Jones’ anger and frustration at center stage. His unflinching lyrics and tough guitar work leave no doubt as to where he stands. It’s the best song on the album and closes these sessions out with a strong statement. Dennis Jones is an absolute beast of a musician and songwriter and Soft Hard & Loud will claim a space in your rotation after a single listen. Be cool and let it happen.
11/14/20 —Tahoe Onstage Review - Tim Parsons
Dennis Jones’ records have always been rock and/or blues. With the release of “Soft Hard & Loud,” add jazz and reggae to the mix.
Such versatility is possible with a tight band and Jones’ touring and studio trios are one and the same. Raymond Johnson plays drums and Cornelius Memes, who co-produced the album with Jones, plays bass.
As with all seven of his albums, which he started busting out in 2003, Jones wrote each song on “Soft Hard & Loud,” a most apt description of the sounds. And like fellow guitar greats Coco Montoya, Jack White and Tab Benoit, Jones is a former drummer. His percussion erudition doubtless helps him create so many great songs. Jones is an undisputed guitar virtuoso, but the song is everything to him.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite from the 10 gems on this record, which quickly hit No. 1 on the Roots Music Report Blues Chart.
A hard-rocking anthemic tune, “Like Sheep” is charting as a single: “Is your brain on vacation? Why is everybody half-asleep? You just do what your told. Like sheep.”
The tumult and tragedy of 2020 has inspired a lot of wide-awake music across all genres. The most notable here is “Burn The Plantation Down.” In the Jim Crow days, poor whites, which included the police, where the greatest enemy to black sharecroppers. The plantation owners were the protectors who preferred the sharecroppers work than to die. In his song, Jones points out that plantation owners and the police now work in unison in what remains a caste system, and he offers a solution.
Another strong message comes with the aforementioned reggae song, “I Hate Hate.” This reminds me of when the Rolling Stones decided to make a country song, “Dead Flowers,” and it was perfect. The same applies here. Jones proves to be irie with the reggae. The rhythm section of Memes and Johnson is brilliant and Jones is a wonderful singer.
“Gonna Be Alright” is another song that revels in the rhythm, and Jones rocks on a Stratocaster like he’s Jimi Hendrix.
Of there softer side, there’s the jazzy “I love the Blues” and “Nothin’ On You,” the latter includes backing vocals by Allison August and Michael Turner.
The song that might most stick in a listener’s head is “When I Wake Up,” in which Jones champions a single-minded focus for love and trancey groove. The album title could work for this song, too.
“Soft Hard & Loud” is another feather in Dennis Jones’ bandstand fedora.
— Tim Parsons
11/04/20 - Making A Scene Review - Richard Ludmerer
Dennis Jones hails from the rural town of Monkton, Maryland. His grandfather played an acoustic guitar and a thirteen-year-old Jones received his first guitar on Christmas Day. At the age of sixteen he was already in a cover band playing rock n’ roll. He joined the military when he was eighteen and while stationed in Germany, played in various bands, and witnessed some great concerts including Rufus Thomas and Rory Gallagher. Jones got married and moved to Los Angeles but later got divorced. He worked as an elevator technician and moonlighted in bands at night. When Jones got laid off he decided to pursue music full time. Jones played with Zac Harman before forming his own band in the early 1990’s. Jones recorded his debut “Falling Up” in 2003; and followed up with 2005’s “Passion For The Blues” with Harmon guesting on one track. Jones’ last album was 2018’s live “WE 3”.
This is Jones’ seventh album overall. The Dennis Jones Band includes co-producer Jones, guitar and lead vocals; co-producer Cornelius Mims, bass, keys, percussion and backing vocals; and Raymond Johnson, drums. Additional musicians include Bennett Paysinger or Jason Freeman, Hammond B-3; and background vocalists Allison August and Michael Turner. The album was recorded at the Matai Studios in Los Angeles.
All of the songs are written and arranged by Jones. The album’s title denotes songs that range from the soft and intimate, to the harder and louder blues rock, that Jones is noted for. The varying tempos reveal a songwriting skill that I had not previously recognized.
Jones opens with his sweet rhythm guitar on “you think that everything, Revolves Around You” before taking several definitive guitar solos. “I Love The Blues” is slower and an autobiographical snapshot that reveals his depth as a songwriter, and he follows with a dramatic solo while Paysinger is featured on the B-3.
On “Like Sheep” Jones sings of the current state of mind that exists today “just do what your told, like sheep”. Jones’ responds to Willie Dixon’s “Back Door Man”, first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1962, with “Front Door Man”, his rhythm guitar pushing the tune forward, as he sings “I’m at your front door baby, where can I park my black Cadillac, I’m not afraid of your man, I ain’t sneaking around the back”.
My two favorites follow. On “Nothin’ On You” Jones sings “the hottest girl in town, got nothin’ on you… no diamonds and no pearls, ain’t a woman in this world, got nothin’ on you” while his solo and the sweet background, from vocalists August and Turner, complete the production. The topical “I Hate, Hate”, with its reggae beat, features some great bass from Mims as Jones sings “you think your better than me, but I don’t hate you”.
Jones plays harder and louder on both “Gonna Be Alright”; and on “When I Wake Up” with the lyric “I just want to be lying next to you”. “I’m Not” features Freeman sitting in on the B-3 and turns into an extended jam. Jones closes with another of my favorites, “Burn The Plantation Down”, a topical rebuke on Southern Culture.
Jones mixes his signature blues-rock with some great songwriting. I am surprised and thrilled with how much I like this album. This is the best I ever heard from Dennis Jones.
11/02/20 - Soundguardian (Croatia) Review - Blues Corner
When I got this album two weeks ago, I first thanked in my mind the main promoter of Betsie Brown Memphis ’ Blind Raccoon , who once again expertly chose an album to send to this side of the globe. I am a really happy man to work with people like this.
Dennis Jones is a guitarist who I believe has not yet gained too many fans here in Croatia. However, in neighboring Slovenia, Dennis Jones has already established himself, and, of course, this is not my first encounter with him and his music.
After his five studio albums, three of which I have already promoted, and his concert album, now I am again the first in Croatia to present this really interesting musician and his band.
The album “Soft Hard & Loud” was released on October 16 by Blue Rock Records with a radio promotion by Blind Raccoon .
Upon returning from another successful European tour with his “power trio,” the guitarist
Dennis Jones threw himself into studio work and indulged in composing songs for his seventh studio album. It all started in February this year, but this disease has disrupted everything everywhere and everyone. Of course, Dennis is no exception, he just had to adapt and start working badly on new materials. In doing so, he had the wholehearted support of his killer rhythm section, Raymond Johnson on drums and bassist Cornelius Memes. They all co-produced the album and invited four top musicians, true masters of Hammond B3 Bennett Paysinger and Jason Freeman, singer Michael Turner and singer Allison August. All together they made this album special with constant and uninterrupted bonds towards ascending and strong and incredibly expressive rock n ’blues.
Dennis Jones was born in Baltimore, and his first love was drumming, only to turn to guitar at 13 years old. Soon, in just two years, he had his own band and the music he loved was played by Rolači, The Who, Bob Dylan.
Given his new passion for guitar, it is undeniable that Hendrix, Winter and Jimmy Page made an impact. But that was not the end of the story; to finally form his musical expression Dennis implements in him the inspired performance of blues masters BB, Albert and Freddie King with obvious elements of R&B, performed very wholeheartedly by Al Green, James Brown, but also those musicians who acted in within the framework of that famous sound, the so-called "Motown sound".
From 1977 to 1980, Dennis resided in Europe, in Germany, playing with various bands; In 1985, he came to Los Angeles and founded Blackhead, before opting for rock n 'blues with his Dennis Jones Band in the 1990s.
With his previous studio albums, Dennis clearly defines the direction in which he wants to act, so each new album is a logical gradation for the better, especially when it comes to his stylistic and musical form.
Dennis Jones is well aware that as a trio they have to sound very good. There is really no possibility of any "scams". Namely, when it comes to the classic rock-blues trio, everything is immediately obvious and you can immediately hear whether you are at home or not. Dennis and the band with their inspired gig strongly show and prove that they have no problems at all. In fact!
His blues is something new on the blues scene and also his album “Soft Hard & Loud” will be a real surprise for everyone who will listen to him. Energetic, subtle, inspired, distinctive, but special and dynamic - that's how we can describe what we hear.
In general, all we can hear and get from this trio is energetic blues / rock, which obviously draws its references from traditional blues, but also adds its own modern atmosphere, as well as some other musical influences and connections.
The album "Soft Hard & Loud" brings us 10 songs and they are all the work of the most talented musician Dennis Jones. Therefore, Dennis and the band sound like completely playful musicians, for whom nothing is a problem in the gig.
It’s hard not to mention once again as Jimi Hendrix’s main role model, but to whom is he not a role model when it comes to guitars? So the story goes further, as is the order, the album is dominated by Jones' guitar, which in some fragments irresistibly resembles Jimi, but it's only fragmentary, because it's crystal clear to everyone that Dennis has his original and distinctive guitar manuscript on which he worked a lot. and it still works, which is certainly to be commended. And here's how others experience it, like Rick J Bowen: "Another fine effort from a hard-working showman and his team."
Dennis Jones' album "Soft Hard & Loud" is truly a real and true gift to fans. Equally it is a very sincere sign of gratitude to all those who have supported and are supporting Dennis Jones and his band for over 17 years.
For me personally, there is no doubt: this album is truly an inspired refreshment on the blues scene. Everyone who is looking for a different approach, refreshment, a new and above all distinctive and inspired piece of music, has come to their own. Don't hesitate for a second, but get your copy of this great album as soon as possible!
At the very end, here is Dennis Jones' message: “I've been watching and listening to people for years who believe whatever the government says is true. They believe whatever their favorite news station says is true. They think whatever their favorite politician says is true. It's not! ”
11/01/20 - Blues Again (France) Review - Gilles Blampain
Funky blues, powerful rock and soul are part of this recording which does not generate melancholy. We are transported by a hellish beat, Dennis Jones shows a beautiful dynamic with a flamboyant side made of tasty guitar solos where he puts tension and warmth but he also knows how to create some more cozy moments. He turns out to be an expert on groove and while he claims the influences of Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Billy Gibbons, he has a style of his own made of searing and catchy riffs and has a voice that knows how to pass with ease. softness to harsher tones as underlined by the album title. Raymond Johnson on drums and Cornelius Mims on bass provide a muscular rhythm section and the presence of two guest masters of the Hammond B3, Bennett Paysinger on 'I Love The Blues ', and Jason Freeman on ' I'm Not ' add more to this production, also include vocalists Michael Turner and Allison August who added sweet harmonies on the fifth track ' I Hate The Hate ' to the reggae accents. For this new CD Dennis Jones signs 10 original compositions. Intense and original, the whole does not lack breath, it is square, efficient, full of energy and good vibrations.
10/30/20 - Rootstime (Netherlands & Belgium) Review
Singer-songwriter, producer and guitarist Dennis Jones is from Baltimore, Maryland, where he played in various blues bands as a teenager. His musical influences are Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Albert King, Robert Jr. Lockwood and Guitar Shorty. Jones lived in Europe for a while, but moved to Los Angeles, California in the mid-1980s, where he performed, among other things, as a guitarist in Zac Harmon's band. He founded the Debbis Jones Band in the mid 1990s. In 2005 he released his second studio album "Passion for the Blues" on his own Blue Rock Records label. This is followed by "Pleasure and Pain" (2009) and "My Kinda Blues" (2012). Since debuting in 2003 with "Falling Up", Jones won the 2004 IBC as part of Zac Harmon's band.
“Another energetic set of high-powered blues funky rock and super charged soul…”
There is a sequel to Jones' sixth album "Both Sides of the Track" (2016). After all, Dennis Jones went to the studio with ten songs of his own - “another energetic set of powerful blues, funky rock and super charged soul” - and a rhythm section consisting of co-producer Cornelius Mims (bass) and Raymond Johnson (drums). There they got the support of some “extra” musicians like B3 organists Bennett Paysinger (Beyoncé, Snoop Dog, Demi Lovato) & Jason Freeman and background vocalists Allison August & Michael Turner.
You can already hear that Jones himself wanted to become a drummer in the catchy rhythms in the opener “Revolves Around You”. In the autobiographical quiet song “I Love the Blues” (with Bennett Paysinger behind the B3 organ), Jones talks about his childhood in rural Maryland where his family fully supported his musical ambitions. On the biting rocker “Like Sheep” he plays a decrepit Les Paul, plugged directly into the amp, in order to fire a riff and give his judgment on the current state of the world. Howlin 'Wolf's “Back Door Man” from 1960 inspired him to write the shuffle “Front Door Man,” in which he begs his lady to make him her number one lover. In “Nothin 'On You” ”Jones then becomes romantic and praises (in the background along with the backing vocals) the virtues of his favorite lady, which many probably already did before him. Reggae is often associated with rebellion. Jones tries in “I Hate Hate” to stir something positive with statements such as: “all come together now and, love one another now…”. Then follow his instructions in “Gonna Be Alright” and, afterwards, will you hear from Jimi Hendrix and Buddy Guy in “When I Wake Up” as he shakes the wah-wahs out of his lit guitar? Jones (with Jason Freeman behind the B3 organ) takes his musical freedom in the slow blues “I'm Not” with several chord changes and, sparing most of his fear for the finale. In “Burn the Plantation Down”, he once again gets the most out of his guitar in casting out the demons, in a slave struggling to free himself and the family.
Dennis Jones again answers the expectations of the rocking, always hard-working guitar man with bluesy roots with "Soft Hard & Loud".
DENNIS JONES – SOFT HARD & LOUD www.rootstime.be
10/24/20 - Midwest Records Review DENNIS JONES/Soft Hard & Loud:
The blues rocking power trio leading gun slinger comes in with album 7, a sizzling set of not more of the same. Using the pandemic downtime to sharpen up the material he started out with, his focus is like a laser. Completely tight throughout with some delightful accents that go beyond the trio, Jones is smoking throughout and never lets you down. A winner throughout.
10/20/20 - BluesBlues (UK) Review
Soft, Hard & Loud is the seventh album from LA based Blues powerhouse guitarist Dennis Jones and the title of the album references his power trio who can produce all three in one song. Revolves Around You is a bouncy opener with guitar notes picked out like raindrops on a metal roof and with added wah-wah and other pedals. When you pick away at it, it’s ultimately a fine Blues with a guitarist of some note. A good start. I Love The Blues is a classy, smooth Blues where he talks about his own upbringing in Maryland. His mellow voice harks back to his childhood and growing up in a family that was supportive of musical leanings. There are echoes of the late great Gary Moore in the styling of the song and there’s a telling contribution from Bennett Paysinger on Hammond B-3. Like Sheep was released as a single and the heavy Blues Rock is the perfect foil for Jones’ barbed view of today’s affairs. He’s following in a long line of exceptional guitarists in this field and Jones can certainly hold his own. The song is driven along by the classy rhythm section of Raymond Johnson on drums and Cornelius Memes on bass. This guy’s not for coming around the back entrance, he’s coming straight through your front door as stated in the classic Blues theme of infidelity on Front Door Man. This is a fast Blues with Jones’ fingers flashing like lightning. He continues to explore the genres with the sultry Soul/R&B of Nothin’ On You. Classy backing vocals from Michael Turner and Allison August along with unfussy guitar from Jones compliment the song, which is a romantic note to his favourite lady.
I Hate Hate is very laudable and very relevant nowadays. Filled with Reggae beats and clean lines as he works the fretboard on another opinion driven track. The band bursts back into life with funky sounds on Gonna Be Alright. Jones’ guitar is seamless and peerless at times. The pounding and flamboyant slow Blues of When I Wake Up highlights his gritty vocal and as mentioned elsewhere this is a trait of the band as a whole. They can be soft and mellow in parts and loud and gritty in others. Dennis releases a frenzy of string bending notes towards the end. I’m Not is a slow sophisticated Blues with a familiar theme “I’m not a doctor baby but I can sure cure what’s ailing you” you get the drift. We even get some extra Hammond B-3 from Jason Freeman on this one. The strong guitar breaks show a technically gifted player but also one who plays from the heart. Influenced by Jimi Hendrix and it’s not hard to see why. He closes with Burn The Plantation Down and it’s a finish that I approve of; fast-paced Blues Rock. We can all understand the sentiment here as Dennis delivers an angst ridden scolding. He does enough vocally throughout the album but the guitar is the star and is always likely to be.