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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Houston Jones Band review for Live Music Alliance, Aug 3, 2009

Houston Jones Band review for Live Music Alliance 08 03 09


HOUSTON JONES BAND, August 2, 2009, at the Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N Lake Av, Altadena; reserv 626-398-7917; info

by Larry Wines

This evening, I went to see the San Francisco Bay Area-based Houston Jones Band at the Coffee Gallery Backstage in Altadena.

Now, I’m immediately going to interject something. Wait for the superlatives. I want to share this as it unfolded.

Having been among the first radio shows to play their music a few years back, I knew them to be a good Americana band. Their first set tonight was about what I remembered from three or so years ago, when last I saw them perform. I had always found them to be instrumentally solid, quite good, actually, but somewhat deficient in lyrical substance. Had I left tonight’s show at halftime, that's still what I'd think of them.

But, during the break, Glen "Houston" Pomianek played a duo mini-set with his son, who turns out to be a fine mandolin player. (The son is not in the band. In fact, he lives in San Diego, and the band has no mando player.) That was when I saw the true virtuosity of Glen "Houston" on the guitar.

That interlude mini-set is quite uncommon at the venue, which takes the mid-show break to allow patrons to satiate themselves with excellent coffeehouse fare from “out front.”

The band returned for the second set, and devoted it, almost entirely, to the originals on their upcoming CD. Wow. Depth, breadth, a spectrum of Americana from blues to bluegrass to Django-style gypsy jazz, with plenty of brilliantly interwoven incorporations of everything from rock anthems to Broadway. No, not some goofy omnibus of soup-to-nuts, because they could. Rather, a set brimming with surprises of fresh motifs woven one into another, and all working so well -- in such inspired arrangements -- that even as you were surprised, you were saying to yourself, "of course, THAT works."

Along with that, their lyrical songwriting has taken a quantum leap. One bluegrass gospel original is so good I told the writer to pitch it to Ricky Scaggs. It's perfect for his band and his hardcore gospel audience, and musically far better than 99% of today’s rather one-dimensional mainstream gospel songs. It sounds like a 75-year-old classic.

When I wrote the description for the show for this week’s Acoustic Americana Music Guide (, I added, without hesitation, a “Show-of-The-Week” pick notation. In part, that write-up reads, “Houston Jones is a high-octane Americana quintet... The band performs a mostly original repertoire that ranges from bluegrass and folk to blues and gospel. Featuring the mile-a-minute flatpicking of guitarist Glenn ‘Houston’ Pomianek (voted ‘best guitarist for 2009’ by the Northern California Bluegrass Society); the band delivers the honky tonk vocals and guitar of Travis Jones; there’s Henry Salvia on keyboard and accordion; Chris Kee on standup bass, cello and acoustic guitar; and, Peter Tucker on drums and percussion. Tonight, they are joined by special guest Chojo Jacques on fiddle and mandolin.”

That pre-show write-up continues, “It's worth noting that Chojo, Chris, Peter and Glenn are all alumni of the WAYBACKS, and that Houston Jones were voted the ‘best discovery’ of the Fall 2005 Strawberry Music Festival.”

And it notes, “Jim Lee, writing in Dirty Linen Magazine, says ‘No one delivers the goods quite like Houston Jones....Houston Jones remains one of the West Coast's most talented and entertaining bands.’”

Clearly, there’s reason to expect a lot. So let’s return to tonight’s show.

Some may find it odd that they're a five-piece wherein guitarist Jones and drummer Tucker both look like old t-shirted bikers, while Houston and Kee look better, almost like jazz men, in their button shirts. But musically, they play as a tight unit and they thrill a room.

At one point tonight, they were playing as three acoustic 6-strings, plus keyboard in piano mode, and their percussionist had detached a cymbal and was strolling through the audience, playing it with a brush. Totally engaging, and each element of that worked to perfection.

On a personal note, perhaps you can imagine that, as a music journalist, editor, and radio host who often emcees at festivals, I get hit-on all the time with requests to review CDs. While that’s humbling, I don’t often succumb to it, because the time requirements would be overwhelming; so, I must (almost always) try to extricate myself in some hopefully delicate manner. This time, I jumped right in, telling each band member that I want an advance copy of the new CD in time to have my review available when they do their publicity.

Even before I received the request for this review, I had already written a friend who operates a venue, telling her, “You should book them anytime after the new album is out this fall. There are multiple songs there that should make the Americana Top Ten chart, and win Americana Music Association top awards.”

The Houston Jones Band has made a quantum leap, and that will surely be apparent in their soon-to-be released new album. If you get a chance to catch a live show, do it, and request all the new songs you can get them to play.

~ Larry Wines, programmer-producer-host, “Tied to the Tracks” acoustic Americana radio, syndicated from Los Angeles, with live in-studio performance-interviews, included in “The Best of L.A. 2006” radio lineup by Los Angeles Magazine; editor, “Acoustic Americana Music Guide & News” at and and additional “TttT” news is on the No Depression page and at; Larry is a consultant to artists, musicians, songwriters, festivals, and the music biz, and a feature writer and columnist for FolkWorks (

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