‘AIN’T NO PERIL’ FOR JIM JONES ALL STARS AND MISSISSIPPI’S VOODOO VIBES
THE Mississippi Delta’s musical ghosts and spirits have left an enduring mark on ‘Ain’t No Peril,’ the new album from JIM JONES ALL STARS.
But does the Devil have all the best tunes, or under the cover of darkness has Jim Jones snuck into the Deep South to pick his pockets?
“No, I’d like to think he doesn’t and that I have some too, but let’s celebrate all sides of music, not just his,” he said, “It’s not all about what the Devil can do, I guess the opposite of the Devil is gospel, and there’s plenty of music in between the two as well.”
‘Ain’t No Peril’ is a joyful, uplifting, spiritual, rock and roll experience that will leave you gasping for breath, smeared from top to toe in the legendary Mississippi grease.
Recorded at Scott McEwen’s Memphis Magnetic Studios – a converted bank – and produced by John Getze, the initial offer for JIM JONES ALL STARS to record in Tennessee arrived out of the blue.
“I got contacted by Ako-Lite Records in America saying they loved my sound, and I should go and record an album in the Deep South,” adds Jones.
“There were some discussions, but I didn’t really think anymore of the idea until one day, my flight reservation came through. Someone mentioned we could record the album in a disused church, and we looked a lot of places before we settled on Memphis Magnetic.
“I’d probably only written as little as 50% of the album and had some outlines for songs when we went to record it, that was because I wanted the balance to inspired by the environment we were going to be working in.
“But before we started, we did a small ceremony at Clarkesdale, you know the story of where Robert Johnson did his deal with the Devil. We were near the Mississippi, that whole Mississippi lay line, and we wanted to call on the spirits.
“I’d been in America for a few days, but the band arrived straight off the long haul, jumped in a van and then we drove out to the ceremony – we did it nearly at midnight to say a prayer and call the spirits in.
“We cobbled some things together, candles, some rum, chocolates, and some cigars and I looked at the time and it was midnight, dead spooky, and this old dude appeared out of nowhere and asked if he could have a cigarette and some change – which we gave to him.
(Midnight at the Crossroads. Clarksdale MI (c) John Getze)
“I went over to where we’d left the candles and the rum to check on everything and the guy asked if he could have one of the cigars and I said of course. I bent down to check the candles, turned around and the dude was gone, we couldn’t see him anywhere. So, I said to the others, “do you think we have just summoned the spirit, was it a visitation?!” We weren’t prepared for him, or for anyone to appear, but it’s exactly what we wanted.”
And the effects of that magical, midnight experience were clearly carried over into the studio as the album took shape, finally getting underway with as near perfect two-song opener as you’ll ever find: the raw, naked, 1950’s sound of ‘Devil’s Kiss,’ straight into ‘Gimme The Grease,’ where for the first time, the performance of Jones is graced by the very soul of James Brown.
“Well, it’s a real honour to have James Brown’s name associated with mine, I mean he broke the mold didn’t he, then he redid it, and then broke it again. I’ve always listened to him; you can find his influences everywhere. But the opening two tracks? Absolutely, it sets the scene, it’s a one-two punch, we wanted to make it special. I spoke with John Getze about doing that, it’s exactly what I wanted, it’s got my fingerprints all over it.”
(Photo (c) Jeff Pitcher)
And so it continues, this undeniable flow to the album, not necessarily in a storytelling sense, but in how the songs are presented. The slow build, freight train colossus ‘You Got The Best Stink (I Ever Stunk)’ hits us full force after the instrumental, ‘Chingon.’ It’s almost as if we’re being prepared, softened up, for the incoming vocal assault.
“Absolutely. When I was first getting into music every album seemed to be a real journey, and that’s what I wanted this to be, a journey,” explains Jones. “For example, with the likes of Spotify these days, nobody thinks about an album’s running order anymore. Now the first three or four tracks tend to be the singles, so we spoke about that, and I really wanted to put some effort into the running order.”
And this approach is again evident with the closing three songs being separated by another instrumental. The album’s title track gives way to ‘Drink Me,’ where the absence of vocals allows us to savour the songs on either side. ‘Evil Eye’ brings this magnificently riotous journey to an all too soon ending.
‘Ain’t No Peril’ is a voyage of monumental diversity. For example, ‘It’s Your Voodoo Working’ includes the brief sound of angels, ‘Your Arms Will Be The Heavens’ an stunning blend of prime Mississippi – and a subtle side order of Mexico.
“’It’s Your Voodoo Working’ is actually a cover (Charles Sheffield), that’s where those vocals come from, it’s a mix of Ali Jones and Nikki Hill, I was going for a ghostly, angelic sound, and ‘Your Arms Will be The Heavens,’ well I like the influences of people like Lee Hazelwood and the Walker Brothers, and wanted that song to be a bit of a salutation towards them.”
But will JIM JONES ALL STARS return, or is ‘Ain’t No Peril’ destined to be another one-off Jones project?
“With this, I have to say from day one the planets aligned, and everything fell into place, maybe it could have been a one-off, but then the offers came in and changed things, so I’ll stick with it now for a while. To be honest maybe I should have been smart and stuck with ‘Thee Hypnotics,’ but I’ll keep going with Jim Jones All Stars. We’ve got the tour lined up now and I’m hoping that continues in some way right up until next year’s festivals.”
And let’s hope the tour and festival appearances run a little easier than the JIM JONES REVUE’s journey to The Letterman Show.
“That all came about because our press agent in the States knew some people who worked on the show and one day told us they were interested in having us on,” explains Jones.
“But of course, we didn’t believe him and said no way, but eventually they sent a date through, and we arranged some gigs around the show – but what happened then was they got back in touch to say their guest was going to be Steve Martin and he has wanted his ‘banjo band’ to be the musical section so our appearance got cancelled.
“About a year later we were playing the ‘Rock en Seine’ festival in Paris and got invited back on the show and arranged to fly from Paris to New York, but this time there was a hurricane, and all the airports were closed because of it so we couldn’t get to New York and that invite never happened either. We looked at so many ways of getting there, but couldn’t do it.
“We kind of thought that was it, but they called us again once things had got back to normal and asked if we could do the show, but we had to be there the following day. Of course, we said yes, took the red eye and ended up doing the soundcheck at something like nine o’clock in the morning. I remember being freezing cold, but it was kept cold was on purpose so that when the lights eventually came on and the room began to fill up before filming, it hadn’t been warming all day.
“The Kardashians were on the show, and we watched from the green room, and when it was time for us to go on, we just said ‘quick, get up and play before anything else goes wrong’ and we went straight for it.
“And I knew I was going to go into the crowd, I don’t think anyone had done that before, a few have since, but I didn’t want anyone just sat there with folded arms, I wanted it to be a memory.
“Rock and roll is all about seeing the whites of people’s eyes. I remember a festival once, I think it was Reading, and the gap from where the barrier for the crowd was to where the stage was, you could have got two buses in there. I didn’t want the Letterman Show to be anything like that.
“Afterwards we had to fly back out to San Francisco to finish the shows we had there, then we came back east for some more. But after the first two invites fell through, we were determined to make it work.”
The music of Jim Jones All Stars stands alone. It’s an exquisite, captivating, devilish mix, one that includes the rhythm of James Brown, the lyrical dexterity of Tom Waits, and the raw, latent, sexuality of a young Elvis.
The voodoo clearly works, and there will not be a finer album than ‘Ain’t No Peril’ released for a mighty long time.
‘AIN’T NO PERIL’ purchase link: Ain’t No Peril | Jim Jones All Stars (bandcamp.com)
TOUR DATES/TICKETS: Jim Jones All Stars Concert Tickets: 2023 Live Tour Dates | Bandsintown
(Photo (c) Jeff Pitcher)