Laurence Jones is 25, which makes him just an infant in Blues years. But he plays with the talent and conviction of a veteran. Turns out, he is. He first picked up the guitar at 8, discovered Eric Clapton at 12, and released his debut album at 20.
Over the course of four subsequent LPs, he’s evolved exponentially as a singer, guitarist, and songwriter capable of injecting his own DNA into a fusion of the old (Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore) and the new (Royal Blood). Never has that been more apparent than on the upcoming The Truth. His boldest collection of songs yet, inspired more by what’s on the radio today than stories of picking cotton in Louisiana, it’s the work of a man confident in his own musical abilities.
That confidence and talent are on full display at Borderline as a justifiably proud Jones showcases most of his new work. Fittingly, he begins with swinging album opener What Would You Do?, which serves as the perfect introduction to both his evolving brand of blues rock and relaxed, well-rounded playing style.
Certainly he can (and does) lay down explosive solos that would impress even his heroes, but it’s quickly apparent that he’s more interested in crafting and performing complete songs than needlessly showing off with one wild instrumental break after another.
So the buoyant Don’t You Let Me Go, complete with a stadium-ready chorus, seems designed for massive audience singalongs. The soulful funk of Gone Away has Jones venturing into Lenny Kravitz territory, while allowing the rhythm section of Phil Wilson and Greg Smith to really get their groove on. Never Good Enough, which closes the new LP, finds the guitarist at his most melodic but it’s his vocal that impresses most. Using the skills he picked up from Grammy-winning vocal coach Guianko Gomez while recording The Truth at the old Sony Studios in Miami, Jones serenades the hushed audience with an ease reminiscent of John Mayer.
Punchy current single Give Me Your Time ends the run of new tracks on a hard-rocking high before Jones dips into his back catalogue. The gravelly title track of 2016’s Take Me High and impassioned take on 2012’s dramatic Thunder In The Sky are the perfect lead-in to All Along The Watchtower, given such a fiery makeover it’s just missing the actual flames of the Hendrix rendition.
The smooth Can’t Go On Without You and velvety The Truth, which both lean on Bennett Holland’s tastefully performed keys, mark a return to the new songs. If the latter’s blistering solo is his flashiest moment tonight, the irrepressible Keep Me Up At Night is his most buoyant, and the tender piano-led ballad Take Me his most exposed, again highlighting just how much his singing has developed in the past year.
Those chops keep coming to the fore as the remainder of the set finds Jones revisiting his past. Both Foolin’ Me and What’s It Gonna Be really benefit from a vocal as aggressive as the guitar riff, while I Will and Thinking About Tomorrow carry far more emotional weight than they did on the Take Me High LP.
Now that, not his actual age in years, is a real sign of growth.
Laurence Jones releases The Truth on 9th March and tours the UK in May.
Thursday 3 May: Manchester, Band on the Wall
Friday 4 May: Leamington Spa, Zephyr Lounge
Saturday 5 May: Southampton, Talking Heads
Thursday 10 May: Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
Friday 11 May: Nottingham, The Bodega
Saturday 12 May: York, Fulford Arms
Sunday 13 May: Newcastle, The Cluny
Tickets are available from www.thegigcartel.com.