Chris Jones has evolved over time into a singer who, almost always, gives his best performances in tempos ranging from medium and lilting on down to slow and expressive. Equally important, his song choices in those ranges are most successful when cloaked in a contemporary bluegrass form, though he does quite well with songs such as Ralph Stanley’s traditional “A Few More Years” or the public domain “Wake Up Little Maggie,” both of which are included here.
It should not be surprising then that eight of the tracks here fall in that range and style. Five of them are contemporary-styled and between 92 and 104 bpm, the other three being either the slow 3/4 time of the aforementioned tunes or the 60 bpm country of Jones’ gorgeous memory song “Then I Close My Eyes.” Laying aside “Wolfcreek Pass,” which is mostly spoken and mostly tongue-in-cheek, Jones has limited the number of faster tempo songs to four, and two of those are instrumentals.
Among those two vocal uptempo songs is “If That Was Love,” the sarcastic retort to a relationship gone sour, written by Jones with his long-time bassist Jon Weisberger. Underpinned by a nice descending bass line and an overall melodic feel, the appeal is undeniable. It’s not really a barnburner, but it is a case in which Jones’ voice and delivery are well-suited to a quick tempo.
More compelling highlights come among the medium-to-slow tunes. Choose any of them, be it the light, positive message of “Where I Am,” (written with Tom T. and Dixie) or the gentle flow and strong emotion of Jack Clement’s “Too Hard To Say I’m Sorry,” or perhaps Jones’ title tune ode to the single life, or his “You’re My Family Now” in which a couple breaks free from their parents. You can’t go wrong, not with this album as a whole. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)BW