Enthralling blend of grunge, heavy rock, blues, soul and more from a ticking Seattle timebomb named Ayron Jones.
Release Date: 21st May 2021
Label: Big Machine/John Varvatos Records
Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download
I’ve got a convincing premonition that Ayron Jones is a ticking timebomb and that, sometime very soon, he’s going to explode into everyone’s consciousness. And Child Of The State – his new album and his major-label debut, may just turn out to be the fuse that ignites that bomb.
It’s possible that Ayron Jones may be a new name to UK-based readers, but he’s already forged a mighty reputation for himself in and around his home city of Seattle – his admirers include the likes of Duff McKagan and Mike McCready – and he’s been a regular feature on the US festival for quite some time. His music covers many bases, from its default setting of grunge, it also incorporates generous dollops of heavy rock, blues and soul and occasionally ventures into poppy, folky and gospel territories. He’s a phenomenal guitarist, his vocals are superb with a style that ranges from breathy whisper to full-on scream, and his songs are well-structured and encapsulating. We’re talking about a special talent here.
There can be no doubt that the difficulties Ayron encountered as he grew up have had a massive impact upon his musical commitment and direction. Both of his parents suffered drug addiction issues and Ayron was brought up by his aunt, a religious lady who ignited his musical passions by exposing him to soul and gospel music. Ayron was given his first acoustic guitar by a sympathetic neighbour when he was 13 years old, and that, it’s clear, was very definitely that. He dedicated himself to the instrument and the luscious results are all over this album. And his style – very much his own, but which pulls in influences from Hendrix, Clapton, Prince, Zappa and others – is a joy to behold. For the album, Ayron is joined by Bob Lovelace on bass, Barrett Martin on drums, Scarlet Parke on backing vocals and even, on a couple of tracks, Andrew Joslyn on strings and it’s an ensemble that meshes together perfectly.
The events of the past 12 months – both in the USA and worldwide – have had a strong influence on the content of Child of the State, and particularly upon the lyrics of current single Mercy. The song opens with the couplet “The flag is burnin’, but the world keeps turnin’” and goes on the echo the dying words of the murdered George Floyd with the haunting line “Got me on my knees – too much smoke , can’t breathe.” As Ayron says: “I just felt like the line epitomised where we were in America. It was like taking a telescope and giving people a perspective of America from an outsider and what it felt like to experience this time. It was a rough story about what was really going on here in this country – and particularly for me, as a Black man.” It’s powerful stuff, and the story is told in a breathless vocal that leaves the listener in no doubt about what’s happening.
The album’s tone is established from the outset on opening track Boys From The Puget Sound. Normally, I’m not too keen on hearing the ‘F’ word in a song, and here it’s a word that’s featured twice in the first two lines. But then we get down to business on a simmering, grungy number that oozes inner-city tension. Debut solo single Take Me Away is another gem – a song that combines full-bore Nirvana grunge with a soulful vocal delivery, before we back right off for the excellent, melodic, clean-sounding Baptized in Muddy Waters.
My Love Remains tones things down still further – it’s essentially an acoustic number with a tearful, pleading vocal that builds slowly into a true anthem, all topped off with some dramatic, howling guitar soloing from Ayron. Free is sultry and swampy and the wonderful Killing Season is urgent, loud and rocky. Perhaps the best example of Ayron’s versatility is given with Spinning Circles, a poppy, almost folky song that opens with a passage of strings (!), before grunge makes its reappearance on Supercharged, a song that definitely lives up to its name!
Hot Friends is another cracker, a song that follows the formula of quiet, wordy verses that interface heavy, riffy chorus sections. It’s an instantly likeable song that is, in parts, reminiscent of early Black Sabbath, and the guitar solos are, once again, sublime. Spacy, ponderous, bluesy verses alternate with heavy, Led Zeppelin-like guitar passages on Emily, another one of my favourite tracks, before the album is brought to a joyful, Beatle-ish, almost psychedelic close with Take Your Time, another song that hooks the listener instantly and which provides one final, exhilarating, taste of that fantastic guitar.
Ayron is proud to declare that Seattle has become Black Rock City, with prominent black artists now showing the way forward and opening the doors for those about to come next. Child Of The State is, indeed an excellent album that can only help that cause, and Ayron Jones is a name that we are likely to hear a lot over the coming months.
Watch the official video for Mercy – a track from the album and the current single – here: