Chris Jones and the Night Drivers: The Next Generation of Bluegrass Comes to Southern Illinois

Chris Jones and the Night Drivers:  The Next Generation of Bluegrass Comes to Southern Illinois
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Chris Jones and the Night Drivers Keeping the Grass Blue


Who: Chris Jones and the Night Drivers
What: bluegrass
Where:
When: 2013-10-18
Bluegrass group Chris Jones and the Night Drivers will perform Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. at the J
Brian Wilson

 

Bluegrass group Chris Jones and the Night Drivers will perform Friday, October 18 at 7 p.m. at the John A. Logan College O’Neil Auditorium in Carterville.

Jones, a veteran of the bluegrass scene and host of the radio show Truegrass on SiriusXM, has played music for more than three decades and performed with some of the biggest names in the genre. The band’s tenth album, Lonely Comes Easy, was just released by the bluegrass label Rebel Records.

Jones says music has always been a major part of his life, and his interest in bluegrass was sparked at an early age.

“My uncle was a banjo player,” he tells Nightlife. “It’s the thing I kind of came to just because there was a lot of different kinds of music around the house. That’s what I gravitated toward. My dad had Flatt and Scruggs and Bill Monroe and the Osborne Brothers [records]. So especially right around the time I first started playing guitar, that sound really kind of caught my ear.”

While Jones says his love for traditional bluegrass has always been key, he has also devoted himself to pushing the genre in new directions.

“I’ve always loved the old sound and the traditional sound,” he says. “But at the same time, when you’re an artist you always want to create new things. So I knew that’s already been done and done so well, particularly the [Ralph] Stanley-type bluegrass music. So I had to take the background of that and forge a little bit of a different path.”

Jones’s love for the bluegrass resides not only in writing and performance, but also in the particular arrangements that can bring a fresh spin to established songs.

“I would describe our band as a traditional-bluegrass band, but we have decided to do originals,” he says. “Arranging songs in a unique way has always been interesting to me, ever since I started playing professionally. Before I was writing songs very much I was always interested in adapting songs, how they’re put together in different ways, and presenting things. So that’s always kept things kind of interesting for me.”

Jones says that while his name is in front of the band, it has been important to him to ensure that each member (one of whom is Southern Illinois musician Mark Stoffel) contributes.

“I’ve played in a lot of different bands, but when I formed my own I always let the band be colored by its members,” Jones says. “Let everybody be creatively involved. It’s been consistently Chris Jones and the Night Drivers through the years, but we’ve had different sounds. We’ve been fortunate to have most of the same people for a decade. The sound evolves and changes in different ways as we bring in new material, but what’s been nice about having the same lineup all the time is we have the opportunity to work on the fine points because we know each other musically.”

Jones says his role as host of a bluegrass radio show gives him a unique perspective that complements his role as an artist.

“One thing we’re able to bring to what we do on the air is just the fact that we’re out there, not only personally in touch with our audience, but we’re also in touch with the other musicians making the music,” Jones says. “So it gives a little inside perspective, I think, because we’re out there among it. I think sometimes you walk a fine line. My listeners are interested in where we are and what we’re doing. We just played at the Museum of Appalachia. There’s a festival they had there. So I set up to do a show from there and talk about that. But at the same time, I don’t like to plug our own personal appearances or use [the radio show] to get people to buy CDs. I’m very cautious about that.... But it’s interesting. I think for us it keeps the on-air part of it fresh. We’re out there in touch with what’s going on and sort of witness first-hand some of the trends.”

Jones says with renewed interest in bluegrass from younger generations and more and more musicians picking it up, it’s a great time for the genre.

“In some ways it’s a little bit of a crossroads that it’s come to,” Jones says, “because there is an aging audience for the more traditional side, but meanwhile there are a whole bunch of young people that are being drawn to bluegrass music, but especially some of the variations on bluegrass. They’re more open-minded, and I think there’s just tremendous growth. But of course you have to let in a little bit of a broader spectrum than some people would like. [Some people have] resistance to change in music, but my feeling is, music has always been changing. What people refer to as traditional bluegrass today was quite progressive forty years ago. Bill Monroe was very progressive with what he was doing in the 1940s. I think overall it’s a very healthy and encouraging time.”

Tickets are $15 for the public, and $10 for Logan students and children twelve and younger. For tickets or more information, call (618) 985-2828 ext. 8287 or visit the Student Activities link at <http://jalc.edu>.

who: Chris Jones and the Night Drivers

what: bluegrass

where: John A. Logan College O’Neil Auditorium

when: Wednesday, October 18 at 7 p.m.