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Local Listens: Justin Jones

Welcome to our new feature, Local Listens, which profiles some of our favorite Washington musicians. This week, we shine the spotlight on Justin Jones.

In an October New York Times article, novelist and music lover Nick Hornby wrote: “Every year is a good year in music, if you’re prepared to dig around.” In the District, the ground is ripe for the digging.

Justin Jones, a Virginia native, has been playing his blend of folk, rock, and country music in DC since 2002. Playing everything from dive bars to the 9:30 Club, Jones has evolved from a solo acoustic performer to the leader of an accomplished rock-and-roll band, Driving Rain.

Jones first introduced his band in 2006 with the album Love Verses Heroin. On songs like the foot-stomping “Honey I Need You” and “You’ve Been Crying,” his voice drips sweet honey into his new full-bodied sound, complete with drums, keyboard, bass, electric guitar, and a jangling banjo. But the best was yet to come.

Jones released his second album with the band this year, the critically-acclaimed . . . And I Am the Song of the Drunkards. Like a Townes Van Zandt or Van Morrison record, the music is raw, honest, and full of soul. In the album-opening “Seminole Town,” Jones starts alone, strumming his acoustic guitar and crooning: “She said I’m no good, / But I hid this the best I could. / It’s true / I find myself lying to you.” In the middle of his next sentence, the band bursts out with a blazing brass section and organ, placing the hope behind the words. The trend continues throughout the album, with the band providing another dimension to the songwriter’s already skilled musical chops. Whether it’s the drums in the rollicking sing-along “If I’m Wrong” or the piano’s bouncy riffs in “Long Time,” Jones’s music is now ready for the masses.

Justin Jones & the Driving Rain play a free show at the Rock and Roll Hotel this Saturday, November 22.
Check out our Q&A with the artist:

Name: Justin Jones.

Age: 29.

Hometown: Harrisonburg, Virginia.

First song that made you want to play music:  ‘Puff the Magic Dragon.’ ”

First instrument: “Rattle.”

Local spot to seek inspiration or write music:
“My house.”

Best local venue: “I can’t say, but they know who they are.”

Best thing about DC’s music scene: “The bands involved in the scene right now are amazing: Revival, John Bustine, the Moderate, Brandon Butler, Army of Me—there’s so many.”

Worst thing about DC’s music scene: “It’s such a transient city, there’s no city pride here. Where I’m from, people are proud to be from there. Here it’s just get in, do your internship, get out. That hurts the scene. No one’s here long enough to care.”

Craziest tour memory: “Those crazy days are over. It’s just long drives and being broke these days. Fort Worth, Texas, will always make me smile, though.”

Finish this sentence: “When not making music, you can find me . . .”
“. . . changing my daughter’s poopie diapers.”

The Rolling Stones or the Beatles? “Rolling Stones.”

Digital download or hard copy? “Hard copy.”

Rolling Stone or Spin? “Both are a joke. But I guess Spin.”

Club show or festival? “Club.”

Tell us about your band, the Driving Rain.  “It’s a group of the best musicians I could find in town. Seriously talented dudes. I love playing with them.”

. . . And I Am the Song of the Drunkards was nominated for two Washington Area Music Awards. What comes next? “I just recorded a new album in Los Angeles with producer Jamie Candiloro (R.E.M., Ryan Adams). Hopefully, we’ll find a label to put out the record. If not, I think my bartending career is looking pretty good.”