Praise & Blame
We’re generous souls, and we like to allow people the benefit of the doubt. So we’ll assume that the email supposedly leaked from an Island Records vice president, in which Mr Jones’s latest album was referred to as a ‘sick joke’, and which yearned for ‘a record of upbeat tracks along the lines of ‘Sex Bomb’’ was some kind of publicity stunt. Because otherwise, said VP may as well remove his ears, for the throaty Welsh warbler has just produced his best effort in years.
Out go the paeans to erotic incendiary devices, and in come spirituals apparently inspired by Johnny Cash’s ‘American’ recordings. Where he goes wrong is in covering two numbers from Cash’s Rubin-produced back-to-basics sessions. Jones just about gets away with the banjo-strafed ‘Ain’t No Grave’. But in ‘Run On’ (aka ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’), where Cash sounded like the stamping feet of undead warriors, Jones just comes over all club singer.
But once he steps out of Cash’s shadow, he delivers an impressively accomplished album. Jones’s delivery has rarely been so convincing. His vocal is so smoulderingly smoky it sounds like a cigar factory inferno, and the soaring banjo gospel of ‘Did Trouble Me’ is the most affecting he’s sounded in years.