If you’ve gone to any sort of country or Americana show in the D.C. area over the past several years, chances are you’ve seen roots rocker Justin Jones, who’s opened for artists like Loretta Lynn (at the 9:30 a few years ago) and will soon be opening for Sheryl Crow on several dates, including a show at Nashville’s famous Ryman Auditorium. Though he’s often joined by backing band The Driving Rain, here he’s alone on an album for the first time since 2004.
The Little Fox EP is the first record of 9:30 Club owner Seth Hurwitz’s new label, appropriately named 9:30 Records. At just under 23 minutes in length, the EP is a solid introduction for Jones newcomers and a satisfying listen for longtime fans. The record’s best moment is “Need a Little More Time,” a deeply personal address to members of a dysfunctional family that sounds as though it could be on Mark Stuart’s next record. Jones’ raspy performance on the album’s rockers makes them far more compelling than the pair of pensive ballads (“The Gutter” and “Daylight”), but his songwriting is in fine form throughout all five songs as he imbues everyday objects like “receipts for cigarettes long turned to ash”and backyard wildlife with a strange beauty.
Though he’s opened for dozens of roots acts, the material on this EP proves Jones is headliner material. (And come on, what would you rather hear for 90 minutes: songs like “Little Fox,” which is streaming below, or stuff like “Soak Up the Sun” and bland Cat Stevens covers?)
On “Need a Little More Time,” Jones snarls “they’ve called me crazy all my life.” Maybe so, but it sure sounds good on him.