1/14/2021 - Blues Blast Magazine Reviewer Steven Ovadia
Singer/guitarist/songwriter Dennis Jones doesn't hide his classic rock influences on Soft Hard & Loud, his seventh album. But he also doesn't use rock history as a crutch, instead creating his own original blues rock that sounds effortlessly liquid, but also deliberately thoughtful.
Jones, an L.A.-based guitarist, born in Monkton, Maryland, came to the blues after realizing it was the root of so much of the music he loved. His sound, especially his voice, is blues-influenced, and while he's certainly capable of playing straight blues, you hear a wide range of styles on Soft Hard & Loud, from rock to reggae to metal. The various genres all hang together in a fun way, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix in that the blues is an organizing principle for a flood of different types of music. While Jones tips his hat to Hendrix, and is open about his Hendrix influence, he's got his own sound.
There are blues rock tracks like "Front Door Man," with its Stevie Ray Vaughan bounce, Jones' guitar riff leading the song through its paces while he playfully takes on Howlin' Wolf's classic "Back Door Man," refusing to sneak around for an affair: "I ain't afraid of your man / I ain't sneaking around the back." "When I Wake Up" is a slow-for-Jones blues with lots of metal crunch in his guitar tone, and even some glam rock in the mind-bending guitar solo. But his soulful voice is pure blues, giving the song emotional depth. Jones could have used familiar blues licks and he'd still have a solidly standard song, but by emulsifying his influences so thoroughly, he creates something new and surprising.
Jones also takes on styles you wouldn't expect. "I Hate Hate" is reggae a la Led Zeppelin's "D'yer Mak'er." "Nothin' On You" is soulful pop, with Jones singing uncannily like Hendrix. "Like Sleep" has an AC/DC crunch and "Burn the Plantation Down" is punk blues. There's no way to generalize the style, as Jones pulls in so many influences and then exports them through his own sensibility. He makes it sound easy, but when you go back to break down all that he's synthesizing, you realize it's amazingly intricate work.
Jones is more blues rock than pure blues, but Soft Hard & Loud has plenty of great blues moments. Jones folds in everything he hears and uses his power trio, often enhanced with keyboard, to focus a wide beam of music into something as precise as a laser. Soft Hard & Loud owes a lot to classic rock, but Jones and his band bring those beloved sounds into modern times.
01/06/2021 - Bluesdoodles (UK) Review
seventh album started with sessions in early 2020 following his successful European tour; we all know what happened then…the pandemic caused all sorts of challenges for Dennis in seeing this latest work through to fruition. The wonders of technology have meant his vision still happened and the situation the world found itself in even contributed to some of the lyrics and tonalities across the album.
In case you don’t know of Dennis, he has been playing guitar since he was thirteen and cites Page, Hendrix and Gibbons amongst his influences and is always in demand on the blues festival circuit and has toured with luminaries such as Buddy Guy and Johnny Winter. All of these excursions and influences can be heard to inform the ten songs on his latest album which sums up its content with the title: Soft Hard & Loud. You can expect therefore blues of many hues shot through with rock and even a slide into a reggae bounce on one track.
It all starts the complex rhythms of Revolves Around You: it has a deft touch to the guitar that makes me think of solo Tommy Bolin with the staccato chord and pick styles. Vocally he is adept to even when he phases some verses but the highlight is, inevitably, the tasty solos he lays down. The next track, I Love The blues is obviously autobiographical but very relatable to wannabe players like me. It is languid, slow and subtle blues with simple chords illuminating the backing track and the added benefit of some washes of hammond B3 courtesy of guest Bennet Paysinger. The guitar solo is a lovely exercise in using all of the strings and imbuing every note with emotion in a style so brilliantly realised by Gary Moore.
Like Sheep is riffy blues rock with a chord sequence that actually reminds me of Budgie but still fits perfectly with the acerbic lyrics and soloing that I could listen to all day. Front Door Man starts all SRV and keeps going in a great way as Dennis turns around the old blues story of a back doorman to the front! the solo is suitably fiery and fits in perfectly as he extends the phrases across the subsequent verses.
Nothin’ On You moves a little toward R’n’B with a hint of soul as the chord playing illuminates what could have been a little derivative in other hands. Thankfully he delivers countrified solos that made me stay with it and appreciate all the more. I Hate Hate is a great title and the reggae that infuses it actually works well as, once again, I am reminded of the late great Tommy Bolin and his People People song. This is slightly more reggae weighted than that but has a similar deftness of touch on the chord barring…plus the words are bluntly accurate. The solo is glorious but way too short.
Gonna Be Alright is back to the rock side of blues and perhaps illustrates best how tight the trio are – as the bass and drums on this are glued together and to the rhythms…another great solo too. When I Wake Up is the first true glimpse of Dennis’s Hendrix/Winter influences as this weighty blues romp utilises fluid runs over the riff and melody and great use of the wah pedal to emphasise rather than obliterate and that sense is carried into the excellent, original solo. I’m Not may lean on the tropes of Stormy Monday but is still original and damn good with Hammond waves from Jason Freeman backing the guitar solos that should have lasted at least for the whole album!
The final track is a cutting commentary on past (and unfortunately present) times as Burn The Plantation Down wraps the album up with a rocky blues of quality…it is a familiar structure but the guitar is so clever…who gives a shhhh?
This is a strong album from start to finish with the blues running deeply through every track: add to that some excellent guitar playing without histrionics and you get ten songs that are always welcome in this house.
Bluesdoodles rating: A Wonderful, 3 doodle pawed album full of varied and accessible blues album for all fan of the blues, not just guitarists like me.
12/22/20 - II Blues - Italy
After the excellent live released a couple of years ago, the guitarist from Maryland, who has been based in Los Angeles for several years, presents his new solo album, which in the title sums up his characteristics. Professional musician for twenty years, Dennis Jones has always managed to combine soft passages with more aggressive and decisive solutions, but always measured. The quality of his compositions emerges immediately from the opening of "Revolves Around You", with a pressing rhythm that captures from the first listen, as well as in the blues rock "Front Door Man", very well constructed along the riff of his guitar, a characteristic that is now defining his style, his solos are an excellent condensation of technique at the service of communication, so much so that he loves to diversify them to give the right expression. We can see this well in two really intense slows, the autobiographical "I Love The Blues" in which Jones tells of his musical growth and training, well supported by the Flammond, which we still find in "I'm Not", recalls us to the memory the famous “Stormy Monday Blues”; we also very much appreciate the relaxed atmosphere of "Nothin 'on You", a rhythm & blues of very high quality. The forced limitation of every activity caused by the pan ¬ demic gave him the opportunity to use the most extended times to concentrate on writing the lyrics, an aspect that emerges particularly in the rock of "Like Sheep" in which he reflects on the current state of the world , as also happens in the reggae of "I Hate Hate". Another piece that remains in mind is “When I Wake Up”, with its groove that recalls with some hints to great guitarists of the past; in all this the support from the close-knit rhythmic of bassist Cornelius Memes and drummer Raymond Johnson emerges magnificently. But the rock soul is always ready to emerge and Dennis clearly demonstrates this in "Gonna Be Alright", with another captivating phrasing or in the final "Burn The Plantation Down" which again tackles snappy social problems. "Soft, Hard & Loud" is another work of great depth, pleasant and convincing in every track, which confirms Dennis Jones as one of the best realities of modern blues rock
12/13/2020 - Blues In The South (UK) Review - Brian Harman.
Originally from Baltimore County Maryland, Dennis who has been a Los Angeles resident for over thirty years now went straight into the Matai studios in Los Angeles after his recent European tour had finished, to craft and record, this, his seventh album of 10 original numbers. Dennis who takes lead vocals and guitar is backed by Cornelius Mims; bass, percussion and keyboards with Raymond Johnson providing drums. Dennis also shares production credits with Cornelius Mims. Work on the album began in February, but was interrupted by the current medical climate, so a winter release was chosen.
Dennis is primarily known as a bluesman with hard rocking tendencies, but his sublime and tender guitar work here is matched with a mellifluous vocal on numbers such as the opener ‘Revolves Around You,’ a tale of complete and utter self-centeredness, that contains an enticingly gentle rhythm delivered by Dennis, his guitar slowly and angrily rises matching the obvious frustration in his voice as he tells the tale. The autobiographical slow blues of ‘I love The Blues,’ allows Dennis to again delightfully stretch out his gentle vocals and lyrically expansive and exquisite guitar work, while a simmering B3 courtesy of Bennett Paysinger lingers hauntingly in the background. On ‘Like Sheep,’ Dennis thrillingly arcs, dives and weaves his raucous guitar into AC/DC territory on the subject of thoughtless conformity. ‘Nothin’ On You,’ is a gentle sweet R&B ballad that has Allison August and Michael Turner delivering gossamer-like backing vocals, while Dennis delivers an equally shimmering vocal that matches his crisp, sparkling guitar. Dennis returns to his hard and heavy trademark guitar playing on ‘When I Wake Up,’ a tale of love, lust and desire, while guitar, bass and drums grind out their raucous musical offering, Dennis provides an a rip-roaring vocal. The epic blues of ‘I’m Not,’ has the trio rising and falling like a ship in a storm, with a burning B3 added for good measure, courtesy of Jason Freeman. The album finishes with the snarling, gnarled ‘Burn The Plantation Down,’ a heavy and hard response to age old, racial ‘Southern Charm.’
12/22/20 - Metronome - Boston
Born and raised in Baltimore County, Maryland and now based in Los Angeles, California, Dennis Jones began playing guitar at age 13 and never looked back. Citing heavy weight six-string influencers like Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top], Dennis honed his chops razor sharp while playing guitar with Brian O’Neal and The Bus Boys (“The Boys are Back in Town”) and The Zac Harmon Band before stepping out on his own. These days, boasting an impressive resume that includes 7 CDs and a DVD to his name, Dennis Jones continues to pursue his musical dreams with fierce abandon. With a voice that’s equally as powerful as his guitar work, Jones rolls through 10 well scripted originals that favor blues, funk, R&B, reggae and rock. Opening with the funky groove filled “Revolves Around You,” Jones proves to be a powerhouse triple threat that’s clearly evident from track to track. He’s not a one trick pony either. He runs the gamut in his songwriting and is masterfully capable at embracing the musical vibe through his performance. Radio friendly tunes on Soft Hard & Loud include the revelatory “I Love The Blues,” the Stevie Ray Vaughan infused “Front Door Man,” the blazing fretboard testimony of “Gonna Be Alright,” the bluesy lament of “When I Wake Up” and the timely revolt of “Burn The Plantation Down.” The pandemic has truly shut down the business of live music, but when things open up again (and they will), make sure to catch Dennis Jones and his band when they come to town. [B.M.O.]
12/11/2020 - Blues Matters Review - STEVE YOURGLIVCH
This is Dennis Jones 7th album release and he’s performed across the world at leading festivals, usually with his power trio. The band went straight into recording this album after their last European tour and the road forged tightness shines through. First track Revolves Around You is a bit funky with some interesting rhythmic twists, at the mid-way point Dennis adds some crisp soloing showing what a first-class guitarist he is, no note is wasted. Bennett Payslinger guests on second track I Love The Blues providing Hammond to great effect, he is best known for playing with Beyonce and Snoop Dogg so its nice to hear him in blues mode. The band hit their rock stride on Like Sheep, an observational song about world affairs. Jones plays around with the blues phraseology of Back Door Man on track 4, Front Door Man, a fast paced blues rocker, ‘I ain’t sneakin’ round the back’ state the lyric and this is in your face for sure. Nothin’ On You is more RnB, and is an unashamed love song showing the breadth of Dennis song writing abilities. We even have some reggae on I Hate Hate, a song that could easily have been a cover from Island Records back catalogue but is a Jones original. Back to rock mode for Gonna Be Alright, some super interplay between lead guitar and rhythm section. It’s on When I Wake Up that Dennis allows himself to indulge in some guitar pyrotechnics but never overindulgent and the rhythm guys hold it down to the floor. Penultimate track I’m Not is a slow blues. The band sound like they are having fun on this with Jason Freeman adding tasteful Hammond. Burn The Plantation Down closes the album and is a defiant slab of blues rock. This is a high-quality diverse album from a top-class performer and is highly recommended.
12/9/2020 - Blues Bytes Review - Bill Mitchell
I was vaguely familiar with the name of L.A. blues guitarist / singer Dennis Jones, but even with five previous albums to his credit I somehow have been remiss in checking out his music. That's my loss if his previous stuff is anywhere nearly as good as Soft Hard & Loud (Blue Rock Records). This is "full speed ahead" blues from Jones' power trio, with a few guest artists sprinkled in. The core of the band, besides Jones, consists of Raymond Johnson on drums and Cornelius Memes on bass.
We get one of the album's better cuts right from the start with the quirky blues, "Revolves Around You." It's funky with plenty of effects on Jones' blues guitar riffs. He follows with his own kind of love song, a tribute to his roots in rural Maryland where he learned to appreciate music. It's a slow blues with a strong guitar intro leading into his passionate vocals on "I Love The Blues," with strong B-3 from guest Bennett Paysinger joining in. I'm right with Jones as he laments the fact that way too many people in our society just do what they're told instead of thinking for themselves on the rockin' blues, "Like Sheep." Kind of sounds like our current political environment, right?
Jones proclaims that he's not fearing the "other man" on "Front Door Man," an up-tempo blues mover in which he tells us that he's not going to sneak around to the back door. Instead, he's at the front door asking where he can park his Cadillac. Michael Turner and Allison August join the group with sweet harmony vocals on the pleasant R&B love song, "Nothin' On You," before Jones gets topical (and tropical) on the reggae-ish "I Hate Hate."
We get a couple more special guests on the heavy slow blues, "I'm Not," with Jason Freeman's B-3 complementing Jones' guitar work. Closing the album is an up-tempo blues rocker, "Burn The Plantation Down," with Jones taking us on a frantic ride through his tortured soul.
I'm way overdue in checking out the complete discography of Dennis Jones, but for now Soft Hard & Loud will keep me busy while I listen to it over and over. This one's a keeper.
12/07/20 - Roots Music Report Review
Guitarslinger par excellence Dennis Jones continues to serve up song-centric blues-rock of a consistently high quality and abundant variation. Changes in mood and tempo, and fresh and unexpected bridges contained within conventional patterns keep things interesting as well as providing suitable setups for the LA-based player’s fretboard fireworks. Standouts her include “Revolves Around You”, “I Love The Blues” and “Front Door Man”.
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.