The Jonestown Review

Big bad brown cowboy in town
A review of The Last Days of Jonestown by Malo Jones, originally published in the Sunday Guardian of December 02, 2012.
Malo Jones’The Last Days of Jonestown is a quirky beast of an album. Produced in Trinidad and Tobago, composed and performed by local musicians, it’s a compellingly authentic blues album, drenched in the lean back country grooves you’d expect to find on a dusty Southern American street.

The music reaches way back for its influences, past the pop blues of bands like the Guess Who and Cream, whose interpretations appear as brief touchstones in the music, to the snarling simplicity and methodical anguish of Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters.

The drums stomp sullenly along, the bass crawls lazily alongside it and the guitar howls bloody murder at an uncaring world while Malo Jones preaches a sermon of regret, guilt and apparently unceasing personal anguish.
On first spin, the album sounds like the soundtrack to a particularly vengeful western film, but it’s even more spare than that, a stripped down, fingernail scrape of angst across a dust encrusted and weatherbeaten wooden bar.

The architects of this unlikely and accomplished channelling of American roots blues are three Trinis, Malo Jones (born Marlon Jones), songwriter, bassist and lead singer, Peter Shim, who plays virtually everything else that makes a sound and Roger Israel who guided the recording and production to completion. Marcus Rojas dropped in to do bass on some of the songs.

Jones is generous in his praise of his partners in the creation of Jonestown.
“Peter was the architect and provided all of the sonic landscapes.” Jones explained.
“When I asked for a 'desperado' intro to William Brown, Peter would produce it in a few takes. When I required a Southern rock feel for Sadie's Gone, Peter supplied chicken picking guitar and a country shuffle drum pattern. His knowledge is simply astounding.”

“Roger was largely responsible for the album's sparse sound,” the singer said of the producer.
“He helped forge the identity of the music by restraining the inclination of both Peter and I to add additional instrumentation.”
For all that, though, the album is absolutely Majo Jones’conceptual baby. The words and voice of the album are clearly his. Well, his and Clint Eastwood’s. The singer-songwriter is upfront about acknowledging as inspiration the fog of regret; the hot glow of corruption and the Old Testament justice found in films like Pale Rider and Unforgiven.

He’s also quite frank about the profound influence his two years in Tucson, between 2006 and 2008, had on him and his awakening to American roots music.
Jones is currently in Arizona, studying for his PhD.

Any doubts about what Malo Jones is up to on this album, are answered by the first video from the album of the song, The Ballad of William Brown, that’s on YouTube
That dark snarl of that song and the delicate acoustic flutter of Lions describe the range of Malo Jones’s work on the album, his voice an angry guttural growl on William Brown and soaring gently and hopefully on Lions.

Whether in Trinidad and Tobago or in the larger world, Jones’choice to stick so close to the roots of blues, albeit sprinkled liberally with rock and country influences and flourishes here and there, will limit his potential audience to those with an interest in those increasingly esoteric traditions.
If you’re in the least bit interested in local rock though, this is a definite must for your collection and it’s definitely worth a listen.
The Last Days of Jonestown is available on CDBaby, iTunes and
Amazon and on his return to Trinidad and Tobago for Christmas, Jones promises to bring some CDs for sale.
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