Saturday, August 22, 2009
Paul 'Wine' Jones
"I'm from Flora, Mississippi," says Paul, "a little town about eighteen miles from Jackson. My daddy was a guitar player years ago, when I was a little boy. When he used to come home from working on the farm, we'd have frolics, and after he played awhile he'd rest his guitar on the floor and I'd get on it. It came natural to me; nobody taught me, I was just born to it. I started in playing, and by the time I was about thirteen, people would come by and want to take me with 'em to play somewhere out in the country. Before my dad died, four of the children had taken up the guitar, including my sister Jo Ann. She stopped, but I didn't ever stop." Among Paul's other siblings was Casey Jones, who now lives in Chicago where he is one of the most in-demand drummers for blues gigs and recording sessions.
Paul is old enough to have heard some of the Delta's most celebrated blues stylists as a youth, young enough to be a post - B. B. King "modernist" if he'd chosen to go that way. Instead he developed a style that is unabashedly "country" and "in the tradition" but with modern shadings - that wah-wah pedal - and a dexterous manner of subsuming rhythm and lead functions in to a guitar style with the momentum and unpredictability of a runaway steamroller. His first album, Mule, revealed Jones as a sturdy practitioner of the droning, timeless blues played by so many Mississippi musicians, from Kimbrough and Burnside to John Lee Hooker. Cheerfully accentuating his guitar lines with a wah-wah pedal, and tightly accompanied by the incomparable drummer Sam Carr and guitarists Big Jack Johnson and Kenny Brown, Jones turned whiskery old numbers like Diggin' my Potatoes into what his producer Robert Palmer called "progressive country blues".
By the time Jones came to make his second album, Pucker Up Buttercup, in 1999, Fat Possum was less disposed to let its plain old bluesmen make plain old blues records. Matthew Johnson, the label's owner, was no doubt encouraged by the response to projects like A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey, Burnside's 1996 collaboration with the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion - the more so, probably, in that it was generally hated by hardline blues fans, a constituency Johnson says he has no interest in pleasing.
Such listeners were hardly like to be assuaged by Pucker Up Buttercup, with its distorted guitar playing, and when presented with a closing track titled Guess I Done Fucked It All Up were all too likely to agree. Jones did not record again.