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Perspective on Passions

Southpaw Jones' quirky tunes offer an unflinching critique of 'white' culture.


Southpaw Jones has the "white boy blues." He's got all the classic symptoms. He's wasted an entire Saturday, he's spent six hours playing Nintendo, he's carelessly left a pound of food on his plate and he's feared for his life only because his bungee cord felt strange.

Jones, a 23-year-old singer/songwriter, will perform a rendition of his song "White Boys Blues" and a set of his quirky folk tales tonight at Hallenbeck's in North Hollywood. Like the offbeat "Blues," in which he laments the blandness of white culture and envies the passions of other cultures, Jones' songs are told from an often funny but no less insightful perspective accompanied by harmonica and a five-string guitar.

A native Texan, Jones moved to Los Angeles last August after a five-year stint in Nashville, where he received a degree in mass communications at David Lipscomb University and an impromptu education in performing the coffeehouse circuit.

He's a self-taught musician with the exception of the piano lessons he received at his mother's urging when he was 9 years old. At 16, he received a six-string guitar that he instinctively picked up with his left hand. Except for a never-replaced string, he's been playing it that way ever since.

"I had to teach myself guitar because no one would turn their brain upside down," Jones said.

But Jones considers himself well-schooled in the basics of harmonies and melodies courtesy of his religious upbringing. He and his family regularly sang a cappella in their church choir.

"I was taught to make music with your heart--that music should be a biological thing--it should come from inside you and not from an instrument," Jones said.

Despite that, Jones has added bass, keyboards and a xylophone to his musical repertoire. His most recent CD, "One in the Door, One in the Grave," incorporates the flavors of rural life with sounds of chirping crickets, passing cars and barking dogs.

"I learned how to use words directly without too much flowery stuff, without metaphors and similes, which cloud over the truth of the matter or make everything sound polished," said Jones, who wrote his first song at 14.

Like the songwriters who influenced him--Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle, Woody Guthrie and Todd Snider--he's drawn to stories about love, loneliness and isolation and life's twists and tragedies.

In "Slab of Pie," a waiter helplessly consoles his burdened customers with a sympathetic ear and a slab of pie. "Freshly Picked Flower" reflects on the intensity of a lost love and its ultimate life-enhancing power. "Soup du Jour" is about achieving one's 15 minutes of fame. In "Words & Music," the most autobiographical of his songs, Jones holds up his artistic yearnings to what he feels are society's contradictory expectations for him.

"His songs get into your head," said Bruce A. Teitell, Hallenbeck's entertainment director. "There are no escape hatches, no doors to get out. He's a gift. You're not supposed to have that kind of insight into the human psyche at 23."

Jones said he just wants to express who he is in his writing. He thinks of his perspective as simple and childlike, which he believes comes from growing up in a rural environment.

"There's a certain innocence that comes from being raised in a depressed, sheltered environment. Things are more fresh to me. I'm like a wide-eyed kid released into the adult world. The good things feel better and the bad things feel worse."


Southpaw Jones performs tonight at 9 at Hallenbeck's, 5510 Cahuenga Blvd., North Hollywood. Free. Call (818) 985-5916 or see

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