Review: Gospel Brunch in Austin with The Jones Family Singers

Gospel Brunch at the Long Center in AustinHailing from Bay City, a small town on the Texas coast not far from New Orleans, you can tell the influence of the region on this family and their music (Fred is from Lake Charles).  The Jones Family Singers‘ Father Fred has been presiding over the congregation at Mount Zion Church of God In Christ for over 20 years and his gospel family showcases the deep roots of gospel music and it’s lyrics focused on the adversities all people face and how, through music and faith, they/we can overcome.  There is an obvious contribution of soul and R&B in the midst.  It’s impossible not to think of Whitney Houston watching them perform. Church and Gospel music was where she and many other incredible artists began.  The Austin Chronicle wrote in a recent article,  ‘high-energy performances are the living embodiment of the indelible connection between the black church and its rock & soul offspring.’  Bishop Fred Jones Sr. made his appearance in his best Sunday suit (it was Sunday and Father’s Day after all) and the five sisters (and daughters) came out in stunning long gowns of red, black, and white stripes and wearing (then later carrying) very high, red blingy heels and large red blingy hoops and sparkly bangles.  Alexis, the youngest of the three-generational group and the lead singer, captivated with her voice, bright energy, and authentic joyful smile.  She is gifted in her engagement with the all-age audience including several small kids and one bent over gent. Later in the show brother Kenny-who is multi-talented, “does real good bbq too” – left his guitar then came up front and gave a nice detour with his rap performance.  “We’re from a small town and we have great fishing! We love to come up to Austin to have fun.”  Doesn’t everyone?

When Father Fred shouted “I feel alright” he got the crowd to come stand by him and sing a rockin’ version of “Stand By Me”.  He said “if you’re here, you’re healthy and doin’ fine. We have so much to be thankful for. If you’re thinkin’ you’re down on your troubles, think again.  I’m here and blessed to have two good legs and not in a wheelchair. Don’t think we all don’t have troubles we’re dealing with”.  He was referencing an old lady in a walker who had come out to a recent show.  He starts tapping his foot out-back and forth and had people come up to the stage and do the ‘walker dance’ with him- awesome.  “I need 17 people to do the old lady’s moves”.  A very upbeat segment followed where he had them all line up like the Hustle-” take your victory walk!” he instructed.  “If you’re sittin’ around feelin’ sorry for yourself do what we do. Put on some good gospel music like this and dance”.  After many high energy songs including ‘Down on Me’ that got the all-aged crowd foot tappin’ and hip shakin’, engaged and dancing, came a nice respite a low, slow, bluesy number ‘Going Home‘.  Alexis belted “when trouble comes I go down to my knees”.  For the last song, they all came down from the stage to the floor and Alexis came over and hugged the young 90-ish yr old man for coming out  to the show.

The Spirit Speaks LP,  although just released in April, is quickly gaining buzz and receiving some well deserved  respect from Rolling Stone Magazine naming the group ‘One of the’ MUST SEE ACTS of SXSW 2014′ –  (They’ve also made appearances at the ACL Music Festival). To top things off, the family just appeared at NYC’s prestigious Lincoln Center for the debut of Lincoln Center Out of Doors series Lincoln Center calls them a ‘gospel funk power group’.  It’s only a matter of time before everyone knows this family (who, by the way, sing together all the time even at home and in the car).  They are accomplishing goals and expanding their reach to all types of people. They want everyone to be in the mix, to feel included.  I’m still benefiting from the music and inspiration I heard that day.

Read more about the family here


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