Lloyd Jones Highway Bound as reveiwed in Phantom TollboothDocumenting classic songs of the folk-blues troubadour

(Underworld Records)
Time: 15 tracks / 45 minutes

The cover has this one right: one man and his guitar, on the road (although maybe the shoes should be a little dustier). This collection feels a bit like a living musical historical document as Jones covers songs by Robert Johnson, W. C. Handy and Blind Willie McTell, plus three passable ones of his own.

It is a risky format. On one hand, players like Rory Gallagher made an acoustic country blues slot a highlight of their set. On the other, this is not sandwiched between electric songs and there is only so far you can go with a bucketful of twelve bar blues.

Jones performs well, with all songs getting at least a competent treatment and the set as a whole showing his accumulated live experience, particularly in the varied guitar arrangements.

He excels with his intricate playing on Mississippi John Hurt’s “Don’t Want Me, Baby,” while his radical treatment of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Southbound Train” is delightfully slow and laboured, his voice aching along with the guitar. “Broke Down Engine” is another treat of speedy finger-picking.

Like any troubadour, he has learned the tricks that keep a crowd happy and his largely up-tempo approach to this collection keeps it interesting, with a dash of Danelectro twice thrown into the otherwise acoustic set. He caps it with a change of style, re-imagining “Lazy Bones”, one of two pieces with fine guests on harmonica (Charlie Musselwhite sits in on the innuendo-laden “Ice Cream Man”).

But while Jones uses his experience to his advantage, this is not a unique project and it may only hold strong appeal to Blues purists.