JW Jones is an award-winning Canadian blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He has released eight studio albums, performed in 19 countries, toured four continents, and played with legends like Buddy Guy, Canned Heat, and Red Hot Chili Peppers phenomenon Chad Smith. This winter he brought his flying Gibson to the UK to promote his latest studio album, High Temperature. The tour came to London’s Borderline last weekend for what was, in my opinion, one of the best gigs of the year.
Starting with Wham, a crazy jam from the current album, Jones set the tone for the evening, a night of laughter, dance, and boogieing audience. The dance floor wasn’t packed, but that didn’t stop the bluesman from treating it like a sold-out gig. He even mentioned that Joe Bonamassa played Borderline for 26 people six years ago. Personally, I think it’s a privilege to witness artists in front of a smaller audience and performing their heart out. This is the way the legends grow. The lucky witnesses can claim later “I saw JW Jones playing for 100 people, and he was brilliant!”
As if the temperature wasn’t already climbing inside the venue on that cold December night, the Ottawa native set the room ablaze with the LP’s title track, High Temperature. In the process he made the audience a part of his band: a clapping rhythm section to complement drummer Will Laurin and Maple Blues Award-nominated bassist Laura Greenberg.
It’s evident that the trio on stage know each other well, playing off Jones’ ideas and letting him fly high on his classic ’60s gold Les Paul. So the live versions of new songs like Murder In My Heart For The Judge, How Many Hearts, Same Mistakes, and Where Do You Think I Was showcased the tunes in a new light, adding a twist of improvisation and passion.
The musical feast reached its climax with Jones playing a medley of well-known riffs and music themes. For the very first time, I saw someone playing almost every possible riff in one mash-up, from Brown Sugar and the Pink Panther theme to Hendrix riffs.
Almost as impressive, in the final part of the show the entire band revealed their talents and musical abilities by swapping instruments. Jones took over the drum kit, Laurin was handed the bass, and Greenberg grabbed the lead guitar, all seamlessly, with the music still playing.
The trio proved that, without any effort, they could play their secondary instruments just as well, and took the challenge to its natural conclusion: by all sharing Jones’ Gibson. A guitar played with six hands isn’t something usually seen at gigs. But this night was far from usual. JW Jones is an exceptional musician, sharing his passion for blues. He was certainly worth a trip on a freezing December night, and someone I’m already waiting to see again.
JW Jones live @ Borderline, 2nd December 2017
Review and photography by Edyta K