Tuesday night found me sitting in a church pew, bopping like crazy and jamming out to the blues. I was, of all places, at the Unitarian Universalist Church to catch David Jones and the Jones Tones play a gig. Here's some background.
The Chippewa Valley is fortunate to have The Chippewa Valley Blues Society (CVBS), a group of volunteers who are dedicated to bringing the blues to our area. They organize the Tuesday Night Blues, a free summer concert series held in Owen Park in Eau Claire from May to August. The music is funded by annual membership dues ($10 for an individual membership, $15 for a family membership), underwriting by local businesses and donations from the audience. Because of their hard work local musicians are paid a fair price for their music, the Chippewa Valley gets excellent music, enhancing the intrinsic value of the Chippewa Valley and our quality of life. For many the beginning of summer is marked by the Tuesday Night Blues concert series. And, because I have a day job, I'm delighted by the grown up hours: 6:30-8:30. But as nice as it is to start the summer with the blues, I sang the blues—for real—during the winter months. Wisconsin winters are hard on me: cold; dark; isolating. And though I lever myself off my red couch on the weekends to get my music fix, the winter weeknights drag on and on and on.
It seems that the board of directors at the CVBS felt the same way, because—for the second year-- they've extended the Tuesday Night Blues into the winter months. And the Unitarian Universalist Society on Farwell Street in downtown Eau Claire have donated their space. It's only once a month but, for me, the second Tuesday of the month is a beacon of light in a cold Wisconsin landscape and I look forward to The Tuesday Night Blues, Unplugged. Last night was the first concert of the winter series and that's why I was bopping in a pew, listening to the blues.
David Jones has been playing the Chippewa Valley since the 1990s and has been playing music, period, for most his life. His band, David Jones and the Jonestones consist of David Jones on lead guitar, Duffy Duffenhausen on rhythm guitar and harmonica, John LeBrun on drums and Cayta on bass. Yes, I know I wrote about Catya last week, but this band is how I met her and was my introduction to the local music scene.
It was sometime in the early 2000's. I was new to Myspace--which should help date things—and I got a friend's request from a guy I didn't know. I was new to the internet and still suspicious of social networking sites. I didn't want to accept but he was local and I didn't want him to see me on the streets and think, “Hey, there's the bitch who rejected my friend's request!” So I clicked the “accept” button and promptly forgot about it. About a week later I got an email from a friend in Louisiana asking who my new Myspace friend was and if I'd read his blog. I hadn't. First thing I discovered was that he was a musician, which explained his friend's request. The second thing I discovered was that he's a great writer. I hadn't seen live music since my last Dead Concert in 1991. I didn't have friends interested in live music and I hadn't been in a bar since 1994. But my curiosity was piqued, so I checked his gig schedule and hauled myself out that very weekend to see David Jones and the Jonestones at the Sheeley House. Over the break I introduced myself to David as his new Myspace friend. He and the band were friendly and welcoming, which helped allay my discomfort about being a sober woman, alone in a bar. And I was hooked. I started hitting their gigs regularly.
Because of the economy, bars aren't as willing to shell-out for a full band. But the Chippewa Valley is now used to live music. The bars now rely on open mics and two-person acts, so the Jonestones aren't playing as a full band as much as they used to but their hiatus did not affect their performance. David plays a mix of genres, from country to reggae to folk. In honor of the first Tuesday Night Unplugged he mostly played the blues, and those songs that weren't strict blues were presented as such, which was A-OK with me—I love genre-switching. And I'd missed The Jones Tones.
A couple of genre-switching examples happened in the first set with Big River (written by Johnny Cash, but as blues as blues can be) and Shame, Shame, Shame by Jimmy Reed. In the middle of the first set David invited Tom Carlson and his trombone up to the stage. Tom was recently spotted playing behind SueOrfield and Ellen Whyte and is a member of the Chippewa Valley Jazz Orchestra. You'll be able to catch him with CVJO Friday night and if I didn't already have plans I'd certainly go because on Tuesday Tom rocked the house. His horn added a raucous, old-timey feel reminiscent to New Orleans-style blues and he came equipped with his Wa-wa plunger. Near the end of the first set he and Catya blew the house away with Bobby Blue Bland's “Trouble” and David closed with one of his originals, “AM Blues,” a song that always gets me moving.
David got serious in the second set, offering up “Easy Wind” by the Dead, “Sitting On Top Of The World” by Doc Watson, “Left Me With A Broken Heart” by Rodney Earl and the Broadcasters and two Howling Wolf songs. My absolute favorite was when Duffy pulled out his harmonica during Hendrix's “Redhouse,” and blew an amazing, goosebumpy solo. It's fun to watch this band, their enjoyment is obvious and seeing John LeBrun on drums just makes me happy (even when he's drumming the blues) because of his joy. And though the bass is not Catya's first instrument of choice, she's really, really good. Tom Carlson was again invited up to the stage in the second set and a great time was had by all.
David sings with a clear, sweet, baritone and John LeBrun said afterwards that David has a knack of pulling the best out of other musicians. He also has a knack of pulling out the best in his audience. I look forward to seeing more of David Jones and the Jones Tones.