Albert flies solo to air self-penned, honest observations of life and love
Leaving home in Shropshire and turfing up as a green undergraduate at Plymouth University was the turning point for Alex Jones. You might have come across him as one third of the band AlBenAza, or maybe as the regular guitarist in top Cornish singer songwriter Ruarri Joseph's band.
He is currently building on these firm foundations to add another string to his bow as burgeoning acoustic balladeer Albert.
When Al came to the Westcountry to study French his head was soon immersed in melody after finding himself living in a shared student house with fellow aspiring musician Ben Hall.
"I could play guitar a bit but I didn't ever sing. I thought I was rubbish," shrugs Al. That self-deprecating myth is firmly exploded with even a cursory listen to this charming troubadour's second EP Needs Must which heralds a series of solo shows around Devon and Cornwall.
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Its five thoughtful, self-penned tracks reveal a strong, clear and warm voice, the icing on a deep and sweet melodic cake.
The humble and reluctant singer cut his teeth at open mic nights around Plymouth, teaming up with Ben and fellow student Aaron Douglas (aka Aza) to form AlBenAza – a union they still return to when they can, some seven years on, even though they never recorded or released anything.
Starting out as a trio with three acoustic guitars and swapping lead vocal duties, they morphed into a bass, drums and electric guitar band, playing half covers and half originals, close to home and further afield for seasons in the French Alps. But Al the songwriter was steadily emerging, and urging a return to acoustic basics.
"I always really liked finger-picking and acoustic music," says Al, 28, and a massive BB King fan, who grew up listening to his father play guitar.
"My dad is a really good guitarist. He was always way better than me."
There's only one cover on the setlist for Al's solo tour – one of his favourite tracks of all time, Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac song I Need Your Love So Bad.
"That's passed down from my old man," says Al. "He introduced me to Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, the greats of the British blues revival. "I don't write bluesy songs, though."
What he does write is simple and solid ballads, focused on love and life, and infused with a positive spirit.
"I guess a lot of them are reminders to myself to behave in a certain way," says Al, who is now settled in the folky haven of The Orphanage studio at Perranporth on Cornwall's north coast. This is where he recorded the new EP, with Ryan Jones (of Kola), drummer Harry Harding and bassist Chris Jones (who both play with Ruarri Joseph and the People's String Foundation). Al chooses to use the long version of Bertie, the nickname all his friends call him, as a stage moniker in a bid to diffuse his nerves about going it alone.
"I'm trying to be really honest with my music and hopefully people will appreciate that," adds Al.