Dennis Jones’ records have always been rock and/or blues. With the release of “Soft Hard & Loud,” add jazz and reggae to the mix.
Such versatility is possible with a tight band and Jones’ touring and studio trios are one and the same. Raymond Johnson plays drums and Cornelius Memes, who co-produced the album with Jones, plays bass.
As with all seven of his albums, which he started busting out in 2003, Jones wrote each song on “Soft Hard & Loud,” a most apt description of the sounds. And like fellow guitar greats Coco Montoya, Jack White and Tab Benoit, Jones is a former drummer. His percussion erudition doubtless helps him create so many great songs. Jones is an undisputed guitar virtuoso, but the song is everything to him.
It’s difficult to pick a favorite from the 10 gems on this record, which quickly hit No. 1 on the Roots Music Report Blues Chart.
A hard-rocking anthemic tune, “Like Sheep” is charting as a single: “Is your brain on vacation? Why is everybody half-asleep? You just do what your told. Like sheep.”
The tumult and tragedy of 2020 has inspired a lot of wide-awake music across all genres. The most notable here is “Burn The Plantation Down.” In the Jim Crow days, poor whites, which included the police, where the greatest enemy to black sharecroppers. The plantation owners were the protectors who preferred the sharecroppers work than to die. In his song, Jones points out that plantation owners and the police now work in unison in what remains a caste system, and he offers a solution.
Another strong message comes with the aforementioned reggae song, “I Hate Hate.” This reminds me of when the Rolling Stones decided to make a country song, “Dead Flowers,” and it was perfect. The same applies here. Jones proves to be irie with the reggae. The rhythm section of Memes and Johnson is brilliant and Jones is a wonderful singer.
“Gonna Be Alright” is another song that revels in the rhythm, and Jones rocks on a Stratocaster like he’s Jimi Hendrix.
Of there softer side, there’s the jazzy “I love the Blues” and “Nothin’ On You,” the latter includes backing vocals by Allison August and Michael Turner.
The song that might most stick in a listener’s head is “When I Wake Up,” in which Jones champions a single-minded focus for love and trancey groove. The album title could work for this song, too.
“Soft Hard & Loud” is another feather in Dennis Jones’ bandstand fedora.
— Tim Parsons
- Dennis Jones
- ‘Soft Hard & Loud
- Label: Blue Rock Records
- Release: Oct. 16, 2020
- Favorite tracks: “Front Door Man,” “Gonna Be Alright”