The moment I began listening to “The Sunray Sessions,” Evan Taylor Jones’ newest EP, I traveled back in time. Decades were rewound and I found myself simultaneously in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I saw visions of James Brown, the Jackson 5, and many other masters of the soul genre. Some I recognized, others I didn’t, but something told me these people were the legends, the foundations of soul. I had fallen in love with so many of these people’s tracks and they had been a significant influence on my music tastes through the years. It was truly life-changing.
Still, I was perplexed by my sudden teleportation. Why did my mind drift to this time, these people even? Then, Jones’ music continued to play and I understood—this man had enriched his songs with the same raw power these soul legends had used. Yet, there was something else about his music, something different from these past artists. I could tell you what it was, but I think I should show you instead by delving into the man behind the EP.
Jones’ soulful journey started with his childhood. He and his two older brothers were solely raised by their mother, an enthusiast of classic rock and soul. However, when she passed away due to lymphatic cancer, thirteen-year-old Jones was pushed even deeper into the music styles his mother enjoyed. When he suffered a torn labrum during a high school basketball game, his musical path was solidified as he began to learn the guitar. Since then, Jones has masterfully formed his rock-soul style, combining deep, smooth vocals with a vibrant medley of horns, guitar, piano, and other instruments. He has fans in more than thirty-four countries and he even played at the Orlando House of Blues, opening for Bob Marley’s band, The Wailers. These are some impressive feats and he has definitely earned them, a fact easily discernable in this EP.
“The Sunray Sessions” is a collection of six tracks, opening with “Over Your Shoulder.” This song is heavily driven by guitar, mainly showcasing his rock influences, but he soon combines it with a surge of powerful vocals, raw and reminiscent of funk, soul, jazz, and even blues songs. This mix is so incredibly energizing, ingeniously throwing listeners straight into his amazing talent. They are practically drowning in this talent when he sings “Smooth Sailing” and “Homegrown,” both covers of songs originally performed by The Queens of the Stone Age and The Zac Brown Band respectively. After listening to the original songs, as well as Jones’ versions, there is a clear distinction between them. Listeners will notice the originals used different genres. “Smooth Sailing” had a techno-rock vibe with higher-pitched vocals while “Homegrown” was more country and had lighter, drawling singing. Jones changed these songs completely. “Smooth Sailing” was given a harder rock tune, melded with funk and deeper vocals. “Homegrown” still retained much of its country origins, but with Jones’ smooth vocals combined with awesome horns, traces of blues and rock, and amazing backup singers, he makes this song so much stronger and influential than it was.
The same can be said about the entire EP, giving us insight into what separates Jones from the soul legends, yet remains connected to them. He was influenced by them all, but he used his talents to enhance the styles he plays in, adding bits of other genres to make his own music. These days, pop and rap dominate the airwaves, but Jones shows listeners why the legends were so influential to a plethora of artists today. He shows us why we should continue to keep older styles alive, so future generations will remember this power. Go ahead and look up his EP so you too can rediscover the art of soul.