Paul Jones

Delta bluesman
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The Independent Online

Paul Jones was an idiosyncratic bluesman whose music was rooted deep within the Delta tradition. A welder by trade, he spent years playing the region's roughest juke joints, nurturing his own highly expressive style, before winning wider fame courtesy of Oxford, Mississippi's iconoclastic Fat Possum label.

He was born in Flora, Mississippi, a small town north-west of Jackson. His father was a proficient guitarist and it was perhaps inevitable that he should take up the instrument: "It came natural to me; nobody taught me, I was just born to it." By the time he was in his early twenties he was regularly playing alongside popular figures such as Son Thomas and Willie Foster and establishing a local reputation.

But it wasn't until he was almost 40 that Jones came to the notice of Fat Possum. The label had established a reputation for releasing discs by uncompromising hill-country blues musicians such as R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough, and for periodically throwing hip-hop scratches and loops into the mix. Jones's début album, Mule (1995), named in tribute to his mule Blue and released under his nickname Paul "Wine" Jones, featured excellent support from the guitarist Big Jack Johnson and the drummer Sam Carr, best known for his work with Frank Frost's Jelly Roll Kings.

As a result of its critical success, he became a fixture of the label's Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan and, for the first time, toured outside his home state. Four years later he released the even more arresting Pucker Up, Buttercup. It was to be his final disc; though rumours persist of an unissued live recording.

Paul Wadey