When folks think of gospel music often it is dismissed as “church music” and not taken seriously by music fans. Last year’s Oscar winning documentary, “20 Feet From Stardom” pointed out that for a significant period in time nearly every successful rock and roll artist has used backup singers who were trained in gospel choirs to record and perform. The Jones Family Singers brought the notion that gospel is integral to live music with them to Threadgill’s World Headquarters Sunday. Their album release party was joyful, energizing and just plain fun.
Thunderstorms that threatened all afternoon in Austin translated to an intimate gathering on the outside stage of the former, legendary Armadillo World Headquarters. Those that did attend were treated to an exceptional performance by a true family band comprised of members of the Mount Zion Church of God in Christ in Markham, Texas. The group’s founder is Bishop Fred Jones (vocals) and his family. There are five sisters and two brothers in the group.
You may be thinking, “Oh, I don’t really listen to church music” but if you enjoy funk and soul acts like Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings or Charles Bradley you will love the Jones Family Singers. Besides the Bishop and the sisters belting out gospel, there is an exceptional group of musicians playing behind them. The joy and gratitude JFS brings to their shows is both refreshing and exhilarating. With front woman Alexis Jones' encouragement, the audience readily participated by clapping along, singing and dancing throughout the seven song set that featured an extended jam during “Down On Me,” the group’s single from the recently released debut album, “The Spirit Speaks.”
The album has been a long time in coming as the Jones Family Singers have been touring and sharing their message of love at venues and churches across the country for over 20 years. On April 1 the group finally released their first record after working with The Reivers’ John Croslin and Eric Friend at Jim Eno’s (Spoon) Public Hi-Fi studio early last year. The producers reviewed an expanse of songs the group recorded live in church and selected what they felt was the strongest material.
“Some of these songs we haven’t played in 20 years,” exclaimed Bishop Fred Jones, the family patriarch who has presided over his congregation for over 30 years.
Set list (with lead vocalist):
I Am (Alexis Jones)
Through It All (Velma Davis)
Made Up My Mind (Alexis Jones)
Going Home (Fred Jones Jr.)
Try Jesus (Bishop Jones/Fred Jr.)
Down On Me (Bishop Jones/Alexis)
I Love You (Alexis and Sarah Jones)
The new album on the arts + labor label is available online. We grabbed a copy on the way out of the show and look forward to multiple listens.