SINGIN’ THE BLUES IN ‘A HAPPY FORM’
Arizona musician’s love for life permeates his sound
Growing up in Texas with a love of the blues, singer-guitarist Carvin Jones was able to connect with some of the most famous guitar stars from the southern states. Opening a show for B.B. King at the age of 22 earned him a good piece of advice from the blues giant.
“He told me, ‘You’ve got a good thing going. All you’ve got to do is keep coming up with new ways to challenge yourself.’ And that’s what I’m still trying to do. I’ve been a lucky guy.”
Now 51 and based in Phoenix, Ariz., Jones has more than paid his dues in the business, with a touring regimen that’s passed 300 performances over three continents some years. He says it helps to stay in good shape. He doesn’t drink or smoke, works out at the gym, and plays basketball a lot.
When it comes to influences and guitar styles, he subscribes to playing his solos economically.
“I try to play as few notes as possible and to concentrate on the feel and the finesse of the notes. I try to let the notes breathe, and give them some space. It always comes out much better like that. That’s the most effective way to captivate an audience.”
The Carvin Jones Band makes a return visit to Blues on Whyte this week after their Edmonton debut at that venue last year. Jones has his regular trio in tow, with associations going back many years for Phoenix drummer Levi Velasquez, and a slightly newer addition, bassist Mario Ciancarella from Rome.
“It’s almost like we’re on automatic,” he says of the trio and their ability to communicate intuitively on stage.
They’ll be focusing on tunes from Jones’ recent fourth studio recording, What A Good Day, brimming with solid blues grooves and sharp, expertly crafted guitar solos. With 11 original tracks, it takes on some classic blues themes, but Jones’ lyrics manage to add a certain contemporary spin, such as on the number ATM Blues. And while a few songs dip into darker stories about being down and out, his overall message is an upbeat devotion to the music, especially on tunes like Why I Sing The Blues
or Blues Is My Life.
“I’m still singing the blues, but in a happy form. Maybe it’s about something that happened to me or maybe somebody else, but overall I’m a happy person myself, so I try to bring across that attitude.”
Jones was born in Lufkin, Texas. He owes his ingrained knowledge of the music to his grandfather who used to play blues albums around the house “24 hours a day,” as Jones puts it. He took up guitar at seven and played his first public tune at 14 at a birthday party,
By then he was already familiar with greats like King, heroes from his home state such as Freddie King and Albert Collins, and blues rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, but his career didn’t really take off until he moved to Phoenix at 19. There, Jones began put together his first version of the Carvin Jones Band.
Within a few years, he would find himself playing somewhere on the Phoenix club scene up to seven nights a week. Touring across the U.S. followed gradually. He was able to make his first studio recording, What You Need, in 1999, followed by The Carvinator (2008) and Victory Is Mine (2014).
Because he spends so much time on the road, he hasn’t found a lot of time to go back to the studio, but good quality live concert recordings from such locations as London, Rome, Hamburg and Spain have worked to fill out Jones’ history. He also road-tests most of his tunes on stage long before they end up on record. Right now, his eye is on touring in East Asia after an upcoming series of American dates at Hard Rock Cafe outlets.
The Carvin Jones Band plays the Commercial Hotel’s Blues on Whyte from around 9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, with a $6 cover Friday and Saturday.
If you’re up to a short spin out of the city, this weekend’s Beaumont Blues & Roots Festival embraces a wider range of artists than ever before. Now in its 11th year, the non-profit, volunteer-run event will feature 29 acts from Friday through Sunday, playing on two stages in the centre of the town at Four Seasons Park.
This year, you’ll notice a larger portion of singer-songwriters and rockers on the program, including Serena Ryder, Hannah Georgas and Celeigh Cardinal on Friday, Joe Nolan and the Dogs, Rake and the Sam Roberts Band on Saturday, and Erin Kay, Ben Sures and Mariel Buckley on Sunday.
Other acts take off from surfer rock (Tsunami Brothers), or ska (Mad Bomber Society), but names such as Dylan Farrell hold down the blues angle.
Single-day passes start at $30. Visit bbrf.ca.
I try to play as few notes as possible and to concentrate on the feel and the finesse of the notes. I try to let the notes breathe ...
Carvin Jones, 51, credits his musical knowledge to his grandfather, who used to play blues records “24 hours a day.” Jones took up the guitar at seven and formed the first version of the Carvin Jones Band at 19.