Laurence Jones released his latest album, Bad Luck & The Blues, to great acclaim recently. “The power trio can be justifiably proud of a work that can be regarded as a blueprint for 21st-century blues rock,” MetalTalk’s Sophie James wrote.
Ahead of his album release show this Friday at London’s illustrious Omeara, Paul Monkhouse spoke to Laurence, who is enjoying his heavier style.
Bad Luck & The Blues is a living, breathing entity and the sound of a band entirely at ease and thoroughly enjoying themselves. One cannot praise the rhythm section highly enough, providing the most robust foundation as Laurence exhibits his virtuosity. Our view, yes, but one shared by many people.
“I’ve been shocked at the response, to be honest,” Laurence says. “I didn’t expect it to be this well received. But at the same time, it felt right. I guess when something’s natural, it always shows through.”
This is his second album with Marshall Records, a relationship Laurence describes as fantastic. “We really built the relationship on the first record [Destination Unknown] together last year just after COVID,” he says. “That was their 60th anniversary, and I was on the 10th anniversary of my debut album. We came together and supported Status Quo. Good old Marshalls on stage. It was great. We put in a lot of groundwork and learned a lot working together through the first year. So, this time around, it was smooth sailing.”
Laurence says the approach to this new album was similar to the previous, “just that the music was more lending to the approach that we were going for. I think sometimes with records, you get lucky, and you think, wow, this is gonna be the one. Sometimes, you’re a bit more relaxed, and it happens for you. That’s always the way. I guess I was just relaxed throughout the whole process. I just wanted to make a great album with some great guitar music on it.”
This new album is noticeably heavier, probably his heaviest yet. Is that a natural sort of progression? “Definitely,” Laurence says. “I’ve always been into the blues and blues rock. Jimi Hendrix, Gary Moore, Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan. That’s what I grew up listening to and who I learned from.
“Over the years, through supporting artists like Glenn Hughes, Deep Purple, Status Quo… I even opened up for Sir Ringo Starr in the Netherlands… my natural progression and seeing some of my heroes was more in that rockier route. It opened me up to another world and a massive audience as well.
“I really wanted to keep the blues print within my guitar playing, especially with the way I phrase the vocals. But I wanted the songwriting to be rocky to put on a great live show. The general motto was, let’s make a great rock album that’s got no ballads on.”
There is no saccharine in Bad Luck & The Blues. It is a full-on rock album. “The last couple of albums I’ve done, I have tended to be a bit more on the softer side, although I’ve been getting progressively rockier. From my album The Truth to Lawrence Jones Band, to Destination and now to this, it’s all lifting up to that rockier edge.
“But this time, I was like, what have I got to lose? I’ve had a New Year’s resolution. I’m gonna go to a power trio. I think that’s my gut feeling. I’m just gonna go for it, and I literally wrote about six of the tunes over two weeks over Christmas, and the other four I had from about five years ago that I just boxed and sort of left there for when I was gonna do my heavier album.”
Laurence is joined by bassist Jack Alexander Timmis (Virgil & The Accelerators) and experienced session drummer Ash Sheehan (Glenn Hughes, Tony Iommi, The Twang). Did he see Jack with Virgil & The Accelerators?
“Yeah, that’s, that’s the reason I wanted him in my band when I was 18,” Laurence says. “I was playing Upton Blues Festival, and I was playing a little pub, The Star Inn. He was on the main stage in the afternoon with Virgil. I was just loading my equipment out, and they were playing Are You Experienced? [Hendrix].
“I was like, wow, that’s one hell of a bass player laying it down with a trio. There’s only a guitar and drums, and he’s creating all the music in the backing. So I thought, yeah, one day.. When I can afford him, I’ll ask him to join my band. [laughs]
“Virgil, they broke up the band, and that’s when I said to Jack, do you want to join? We’ve been friends for many years. Met. I produced Toby Lee’s album, and I asked Jack to play bass on that as well. We’ve had a good working relationship. I guess with that comes that trust as well on the record.”
Laurence knew drummer Ash Sheehan before they were on the Glenn Hughes tour. Laurence was at university from 16-20 years, where Ash was a tutor. “I went to The Birmingham Academy of Music and Sound. It was like a rock course. I had done all my grades and my classical guitar from 8 to 18, and at the age of 14/15, I decided I was gonna be into the blues and play a completely different style.
“So I taught myself, and I got a place in the Conservatoire in Birmingham, and I went to try an electric guitar out in the shop. They just happened to hear me play and said, do you want to do an audition upstairs? We’re doing a rock school. And I was like, yeah, all right then. So I got a place and ended up that same day having two places. I actually chose the more rough and ready rock and roll route, even though I’d studied classical.
“And my dad was absolutely shocked. That was crazy because I couldn’t finish off my foundation degree because I got offered a tour with Johnny Winter. So it paid off in the end.”
No one would turn down a tour with Johnny Winter, we suggested.
“I met Ash when I was 16,” Laurence says. “He was the drum teacher there and also did live performances. I think he was one of the first people I ever played on stage with at the 02 Academy in Birmingham. It was a showcase for the industry, just him on drums and me on guitar. We did a little duo. I go way back with him.
“And then, obviously, we linked up again when I supported Glenn Hughes on tour in 2018. We just kept the friendship there, and in the lockdown, I said, do you fancy smashing some drums on my album? He said, yeah, he’s gonna smash it up and make it a number one. That’s what his words were to me.”
Album Launch Show. Laurence Jones plays London’s Omerea tomorrow night. Tickets are available from here.
You can read Part Two, here.