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Keepin' up with the Jones'

I was fortunate enough to get the skinny on Jones Family Fortune

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My boss, Pappi Swarner, is on vacation this week. After the short coronation ceremony where I was dubbed acting editor, he asked me to write a story about Jones Family Fortune. He handed me a press release, gave me a broad smile, a sincere thanks, and then turned on a dime and whisked off to Whistler. The next day when I set out to work on the story I began to read the press release. The first line said, “Attached is a copy of our new/debut CD … ” — only there was no CD.  Via text message my boss admitted that the CD had somehow made its way into his private collection.

Thank god for MySpace and a pair of puffy studio headphones. I was able to listen to four songs from Jones Family Fortune’s new CD, Someone to Love. The music transported me down a mountain highway to a place where lap steel and piano keys roam free. Jones is an old friend of mine. We shared a high school once, but I never knew he could play and sing. I chatted him up on the phone the other day to catch up with him and learn about the rock star life he’s apparently been leading completely unbeknownst to me. Here’s what I learned: Ian Jones, front man for upwardly mobile indie/rock/alt-country band Jones Family Fortune, started out as an acoustic singer/songwriter in Seattle during the early ’90s, which was a tough time for a musician who wasn’t playing grunge to get noticed. Jones was a member of Beatlesque piano pop band The Orange King with guitar/bass player Jeff Lorien (of Coffin Break), drummer Jon Dombrowski (later replaced by Bruce Kurjiaka of Two Minutes Hate), and bass player Derek Brown (who’s now a successful session player in Seattle).

The band stayed together from ’95 to ’98, which is not a bad run for an original band. The Orange King toured down the west coast as far as San Diego (along the way sharing the stage with Super Sonic Soul Pimps) and garnered a management deal with IRI Santa Barbara. When the band eventually split up, Jones went solo and retained the support of John McGinnis at IRI.

“I tried acoustic here in Seattle,” says Jones, “but I couldn’t find my place. Acoustic music wasn’t taking off in Seattle.”

McGinnis (son of well- known viola player Donald McGinnis) told him that Santa Barbara had a thriving acoustic scene and invited him down. Jones ended up moving there after befriending Jim Messina (of Buffalo Springfield). Jones said Messina encouraged him by saying, “Never stop what you’re doing — you have a good thing going.”

Jones toured again with his new band FM1960, which was one of the most popular bands in Santa Barbara at the time. A two and a half month tour took its toll, and the band eventually split up. Jones moved to Los Angeles.

“It was the best/worst move I ever made. I found some good friends there.  I got to work in one of LA’s best studios [Cello, aka United Western, where people like Brian Wilson, the Doors, Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, The Chili Peppers, Weezer, the Mamas and the Papas and Sinatra have worked], and learned that the first thing you have to do to make it in the music scene in L.A. is get out of L.A.” 

In the meantime, he worked construction. Jones’ handiwork can be seen in the Adam Sandler movie “Spanglish” because a house he worked on (which was owned by prominent gynecologist Paul Crane, who delivered Michael Jackson’s baby among other famous Hollywood offspring) was chosen as the set for the movie. Jones’ carpentry, paint and tile work can be seen in the town house in the movie, not the house on the beach. Right around that time he and his wife decided to have a baby, and Crane was a valuable source of advice for the young couple. They ultimately decided they didn’t want to bring a baby into the world to the Los Angeles lifestyle. His family lives here in the Pacific Northwest, and his childhood was full of hiking, fishing and hunting in the mountains. He missed home and wanted a better childhood for their daughter, Charlie. “I know all the flora and fauna up here,” says Jones. “Down there they’ve got poisonous spiders, snakes and fire. The air is unhealthy to breathe. If I saw another day of blue sky I was going to go crazy.”

He and his wife moved back to Seattle. He put an ad in the Stranger and started auditioning musicians in 2006. The resulting lineup of Jones Family Fortune is Ian Jones (guitar, piano, keyboards, harmonica, vocals), Scott Martin of the Dusty 45s (drums, vocals), Jason Gover (bass), and Derek Pulvino (lead guitar) — and they kick ass. Catch them this week in Olympia at The 4th Avenue Tavern on Dec. 21.

[4th Avenue Tavern, Jones Family Fortune, Dec. 21 9 p.m., NC, 210 E. Fourth Ave., Olympia, 360.786.1444]

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