Houston Jones disc a gospel delight
Reviewed March 2010
By Houston Jones
Summerhill Records: 2009
To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.
The smash success of traditional country gospel music on the soundtrack of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" in 2000 paved the way for bands like Houston Jones.
This excellent Bay Area Americana group blends tight harmonies, versatile instrumental talent on both acoustic and electric stringed instruments, and inspired song composition to come up with a powerful mix. The songs on their new, fifth CD, "Jericho Road," tend to be long enough to let the musicians stretch out, but the focus is never lost on the bluegrass, traditional gospel and country-blues tunes.
Glenn Houston is the lead guitarist, Travis Jones the lead singer, bassist Chris Kee the main songwriter, and Henry Salvia's keyboards add tasty touches throughout. Experienced hands all, the music flows on the traditional-sounding "Still Waters," which sounds like a 1930s backwoods spiritual. Blues dominates the title tune, with acoustic slide guitar, a shout-out vocal and boogie piano, and of course, lyrics about the Army of the Lord. A similar piano-driven gospel tune, "Gone Boys Gone," makes an impression and the edgy "Pick Up the Snake" is a definite highlight with a haunting vocal by Jones and cranked-up ensemble playing. "Some Sweet Day" features nice buildups from its folk opening with superb soloing by Houston and Salvia. Houston is a relative unknown, but he plays as good as anybody out there, in spots recalling Doc Watson.
Expert musicianship can sometimes be taken for granted. "Jericho Road" may not reach much of an audience beyond Houston Jones fans and die-hard lovers of country gospel music, and that is too bad. This is a superb album, back to front, and not just for followers of the genre.
Review by Frank Kocher, a longtime San Diego resident, musician, music collector and frequent contributor to The San Diego Troubadour.