The Short Version
Christopher Mark Jones’ early musical itinerary included busking in Paris, the English folk club circuit, tours of Denmark and Holland, the Bristol and Rotterdam festivals, BBC and Capitol radio appearances in London, electric clubs in Boston and showcase clubs, house concerts and coffeehouses throughout the Eastern U.S. His 1978 album for Transatlantic No More Range to Roam was released in five countries and distributed in the U.S. by Rounder. After forays into rock, jazz and swing, and time off to raise two sons, 2010’s Heartland Variations marked a return to the soulful country and blues-inflected Americana narratives of the first recording. The dozen new songs of Suburban 2-Step were released in April of 2012 and found favor with folk DJs both nationally and internationally. His fourth album, Atlantica, was released in the Spring of of 2014 and reflects an expanded narrative palette including both urban and international themes.
The songwriter saga pretty much started in Paris about 1976, when I found that all I wanted to do was sing and play guitar. I had spent a half-dozen years playing professional basketball (in Portugal) and studying languages (Portuguese, French, Spanish) and was enrolled at the National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilizations in Paris at the time where I was studying Chinese . I coasted to a degree in that program , while playing in restaurants and the Metro, then and headed out for London to do music full-time, joining a friend of mine in a squat in Central London. The folk revival was going full-speed in the UK, and there were lots of clubs where you could go do three songs for free and have some chance of being hired back for a few quid. I also got a regular gig at Bunjies, a tiny little club in the West End. I met a Welshman named Mick Linnard, a guitarist who enjoyed playing my tunes, and we became traveling partners. I played a showcase spot at the Cambridge Folk Festival, where a singer named Rosie Hardman heard me and recommended me to Bill Leader, a legendary producer (Bert Jansch, John Renbourne and Nic Jones among others), who had a deal with Transatlantic Records to issue records under his imprint.
The album we did together (see Recordings) with contributions from Mick, my brother Jeff, Gerald Moore, who was a popular club guitarist in London and Pick Withers on drums (Dire Straits) had some success. The album was licensed in five countries in Europe and getting some decent reviews, but it came out at the same time that punk hit in London, and the reception for acoustic songwriters was at an all-time low in the UK.
After moving back to the US in 1979, I had a look at the potential for work in the Boston area, and started putting together a band, mostly called the Regulars, which worked consistently for several years with excellent musicians (Andre Locke of Mandrake, Reeves Gabrels who ended up with David Bowie's Tin Machine) and paid starvation wages .
When my wife Linda and I had our two sons, Tanner and Max, I turned my language background into a Ph.D in French literature and became a very part-time musician until they left home. I taught at Bentley College in Waltham, then came to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, where I've been for 19 years, doing research in the French-speaking cultures of the world (especially popular music) and developing technology-enhanced language courses. (If your French needs brushing up, have a look at French Online.)
In roughly 2002, I started playing regularly with a couple of NYC expats named Jonah Winters (clarinet) and Sally Denmead, (cigar-box uke) who had a fetish for Tin Pan Alley tunes from the 30s and 40s. The tunes had lots of changes, I got some guitar chops back together and eventually moved on to playing more blues and jazz-based material with Jack Bowen on piano and Jim Spears on base in a group we called the Uptown Combo. That allowed me to spread out on guitar and learn a whole catalogue of new tunes--never a bad thing. When I had assembled the digital toybox needed to do an album for the Uptown Combo, I got the acoustic guitar out and realized that I'd like to do some recording of original material as well. The resulting album-- Heartland Variations--signified a singer-songwriter renaissance. I then re-mastered the Transatlantic (UK) album No More Range to Roam, which is now available on CD. Subsequent recordings includeSuburbun 2-Step, released in April of 2012, and 2014’s Atlantica.
Download Word version of Bio here.
Question of Style (from Heartland Variations - 2010) Christopher Jones -vocals, acoustic & electric guitars & bass, Mark Weakland - drums, Bev Futrell - mandolin, Jeffrey Jones - harmony vocals, Karen Jones - harmony vocals.
Hard to Imagine (from No More Range To Roam - 1978) Christopher - vocals, piano and cello, Gerald Moore - guitar, Pick Withers- drums, Mick Linnard - bass, Jeffrey Jones - harmony vocals and viola.
Rock County Line (from Suburban 2-Step) Christopher - vocal and guitar, Bev Futrell - harmonica
The Numbers (from Suburban 2-Step) Christopher - vocal and guitar, Bev Futrell - mandolin, David Hart - tres, Dave Gillespie - guitar and vocals, Jim Spears - bass, Mark Weakland - drums, Karen Jones - harmony vocals
The Trapper's Wife (from Atlantica) Christopher - vocal and guitar, David Hart - mandolin, Vince Camut - pedal steel, Jim Spears - bass, Mark Weakland - drums, Autumn Ayers - harmony vocals
w/ Band @ Club Café - REH
@ Natasha's - Lexington, KY
Performance image 2010
Heartland Variations front cover
Portrait - REH
No More Range to Roam cover (1978)
11x17 poster - jpeg
11x17 poster - jpeg
|Performance shot 2012 - REH|
Suburban 2-Step front cover
Portrait 2012 - LBJ
Portrait 2013 - LBJ
Suburban 2-Step - released April 24th, 2012
"[Christopher] who sings in a rich voice that's just slightly rough around the edges, launched his own personal folk-blues revival with 2010's "Heartland Variations" and now a homespun-sounding new album he's called "Suburban 2-Step." The carefully crafted lyrics delve into small-town life ("Home at Last"), mature love ("High"), loneliness ("Mrs. Pennington"), travel ("Montreal Again," "Drivin' "), first-world problems ("Suburban 2-Step") and the larger society ("Numbers"). - Scott Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. read full article...
"...the sound is layered and warm, and the best songs are perfectly suitable for radio play on stations aimed at grown-ups. Perhaps my favourites are “Home At Last”, a paean to homeownership, which seems almost trite when expressed that simply, but in reality articulates a heartfelt desire to belong somewhere – and for somewhere to belong - and “The Numbers”, a folk-pop future classic that has rooted itself in the part of my brain that prompts unsolicited outbreaks of song at completely inopportune moments." Rob F. for Leicester Bangs. read full review...
[Suburban 2-Step] "In the end... the stories are what makes this album memorable. Particularly the overarching one of a midwestern kid who has seen the world as a musician and athlete, but is happy in the knowledge that, “what we have right now is better than old glory.” Max Jones mtl2mtl.com read full review
Heartland Variations - released April 3rd, 2010
"Your tunes are great. I listened to them over the weekend and took some notes. Very professional sound, great playing, love the vocals, love the simplicity and the song structures, love the chorus of Cincinnati Nights... I could go on and on." Mark Weakland, drummer, multiinstrumentalist, songwriter.
"I've not stopped playing it since I received it. I love all the songs. You've managed to pick up some really great licks over the years - . Lyrics and harmonies are about as good as they get. And it's a clean production - everything crystal clear." Michael Linnard, songwriter, longtime backup musician in the UK (CMJ, David Hughes, John Shirbon) and publisher of Little Red Tree poetry series.
No More Range to Roam
Review at Altcountry.nl by Wiebren Rijkeboer. November 10, 2010
Actually this record would be at home under the heading Wow & Flutter [vinyl], but the fact is that No More Range to Roam was recently released on CD by the author himself. It was originally released as the debut album of American singer-songwriter Christopher Jones in 1977, on the famous British folk (rock) label Transatlantic Records. Jones was by invited to London to record an album by producer Bill Leader (Bert Jansch, John Renbourne). Task completed. With a nice relaxed band - electric guitar, bass and Dire Straits drummer Pick Withers - Jones guides the listener through a series of elegant, sometimes a little too neat songs. But there are real passionate songs with nice guitar solos (Morning Glory, Steelhead Blues), which put Jones midway between Jackson Browne and the Pousette-Dart Band. Nice that this kind of obscure record can be made available again, in this case by the author himself, in 2010, 33 years after his debut, as he releases his second album [Heartland Variations]. No More Range to Roam is available from CD Baby.
Your best work so far... I've actually listed to the CD about 10 times... A great bunch of songs...
I just love No More Range to Roam, It's a throw back to a time when songs were actually written about something real. What a powerful message. I'm appreciative that you are a true troubadour.
Can't wait to have you back on the show.
-Anthony Frazier, host of the Acoustic Hour radio show on WCCS 1160 AM
Melody Maker, London, U.K. 1979
Club Cafe, Pittsburgh October 9th, 2010.
"The Club Cafe set was a wonderful event for us in many ways.
Your songs are beautiful, full of thought and heart and craft, you sing them perfectly,
your accompanists were fantastic and clearly love you, the music, the relationships
that are involved." Elizabeth Seamans, filmmaker and friend
Some prose from Annie Trimble, on the occasion of a 2011 house concert at her place in Mt. Lebanon:
Christopher Jones: Original songs, impeccable guitar styles, great vocals, moving lyrics
Curt and I mett [Pittsburgh] singer-songwriter Chris Jones at the Calliope song-swap a year or so ago, and we were very impressed by his well-crafted songs and impeccable musicianship. We are delighted to be able to present him to the great folk music-loving friends who attend our house concerts. Chris is a veteran songwriter and folk musician, who has recently returned to his love of creating and performing his own music after a hiatus to raise two sons. His musical influences began with the 60s roots folk revival, then Dylan, James Taylor and Paul Simon. He was further inspired by UK influences during his time on that folk circuit in the 70s, including John Martyn, Ralph McTell, Nic Jones. He sees himself in the American troubadour tradition now, a diverse group of singer songwriters that include people like Greg Brown, Guy Clark and David Wilcox. Chris writes his stories in the form he's most familiar with: the acoustic folk song, sung with a voice that's well-travelled. His guitar techniques come from many different genres, but he plays mostly traditional flat- and finger-picking styles.
October, 2013 (Scipio, NY) - "Christopher Mark Jones is a real pro and quite an interesting down-to-earth guy. Our friends loved the concert, and his way of opening up to the audience created an intimate and meaningful atmosphere for a really great evening. It was easy to arrange everything and he was also a fun and considerate overnight guest. We had a really nice talk and connection, and the music can't be beat!"
September, 2013 (Fredericksburgh, MD) - "Christopher Mark Jones has an incredible talent for telling stories through his lyrics. He brings out familiar sensitivities we can relate to. His voice catches your attention and has quite a convincing warm quality. He is very flexible and easy to work out arrangements with. He's personable to the guests as well."