JP Jones – Thugs and Lovers

JP Jones
Thugs and Lovers

One of the main reasons I love home recordings so much is the level of intimacy achieved between the musician and listener – so much so that you can often envision yourself sitting in the same room and being a part of the whole process. JP Jones recorded Thugs and Lovers on his own with just a guitar, harmonica (the only overdub which appears on just one track), a Mac G3, and two microphones. Despite the bare bones set-up, the sound quality is excellent, but it still has all the familiarity of a house concert.

Thugs and Lovers is the Rhode Island resident’s 11th independent release, and he is nothing if not prolific. As with many of his previous albums, the songs here are a mix of old and new due to a 1970’s recording contract that went sour and gave the company rights to anything he wrote until it expired. These tracks are all recent recordings though, put together specifically for this release. Each was recorded in one or two takes and in some cases while the song was still being written. The songs are like newborns – sometimes perfectly formed, perhaps shocked by their new environment, or maybe even blissfully calm as though they have waited a lifetime to emerge.

Most of the music here is firmly rooted in the blues, with instances of a more pure rock or folk orientation. I find JP to be at his best when the music is more laid back and simple. In other words, the more upbeat or rock based songs, like “Pink Flamingos” and “Crawlin Out of Wakefield,” just rub me the wrong way for some reason, although I do like the harmonica on the latter. Tunes like “Temporary Blues,” “A Man Stands Up,” and “Somebody Who Will” are what make Thugs and Lovers such a standout from other folk or blues albums. These go directly to the heart of what I enjoy most about JP Jones’ music – that is, each song is poetry with just straight-forward acoustic accompaniment to give it more structure.

I was surprised to find that the songs on Thugs and Lovers are much more cohesive then many of JP’s other albums, especially considering the years (and sometimes decades) between when much of his material was written and recorded. Although I’ve enjoyed many of Jones’ previous efforts, I find myself drawn to this record above the others because this is a truly one-man show. He took a big chance by publicly releasing a collection of songs that really show off the process of songwriting, and this is perhaps his best work to date.