AWARD-WINNING blues guitarist and singer, Laurence Jones, launched his new album Take Me High at Shipston’s Townsend Hall.
The evening on Friday, 5th August, hosted by local music promoter and Shipston Proms chairman Tim Porter, proved to be an extra special one as the venue was the first place Laurence, who is from Shipston, played a live gig at, aged just 12 years old.
That gig was his entry into the Shipston Proms’ Fame Contest, although he did not win and had to wait two years until, aged 14, he did take the coveted prize, which included a slot on the stage of the last night of the Proms in front of nearly 1,000 locals in the town’s square.
Fast forward a decade and Friday’s album launch saw him supported by local five-piece band, Jüpitronz, with Shipston born keyboard player Darren Clarke having known Laurence since he was a small boy.
With the rest of the line-up — Steve Eagles (vocals/guitar), Chris Danby (vocals/bass guitar), Claire Hemingway (vocals) and Dean Phillips (drums) — they played an energetic set.
After a break Laurence and his band, Roger Inniss (bass) and Phil Wilson (drums) took to the stage to play tracks from the album including the title track Take Me High, Got No Place to Go and Live it Up.
He then played Down and Blue with pyros at the end as a tribute to all Crohn’s disease suffers, of which Laurence is one. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory disease of the intestines, especially the colon and ileum, associated with ulcers and fistulae.
Laurence also included the famous Jimmy Hendrix track All Along the Watchtower, with a brilliant rendition along with one of the first songs he wrote, Thunder in the Sky.
After three encores the crowds then queued up to speak to Laurence and his band, with a chance to buy a signed copy of his albums, with his dad, Mel, selling t-shirts.
Writing on his Facebook page after the homecoming gig, he said: “It’s not often I say this, but WOW. Last night was my favourite show of my career. It was an amazing feeling to play a sold out show in my hometown of Shipston, the atmosphere was incredible and it was great to see so many familiar faces who have supported me from the beginning.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone who has bought the new album and got us into the the Independent Music Charts, something I have always dreamed of. The band and I are definitely on a high.
“A massive thank you to my team for making Shipston’s Townsend Hall look like a stadium.”
Laurence was 11 when he was encouraged to start playing the guitar after hearing his dad playing The Animals’ hit House of the Rising Sun.
Ahead of the album launch gig, he said: “I decided then after hearing my dad playing The Animals’ song that I wanted to see if I could be a better guitarist. So he started learning classical guitar, before moving onto local gigs at pubs such as The George in Lower Brailes.
“I decided that I needed to sing as well as play blues guitar, so have been singing with my band since I was 16.”
He continued to play more at local pubs, with one of his influences being Louisiana blues guitarist Sherman Robertson, and got his first record deal aged 18, after deciding to cut short his music degree studies to go touring with Jonny Winter, with the highlight of playing at the Royal Albert Hall with Eric Burdon — Eric was part of The Animals!
For the last five years he has been signed to Ruf Records and managed by Golly Gallagher, and since 2014 has been touring in UK, Europe and North America almost continually. He played this summer at the North Sea Jazz Festival at the Ahoy venue in Rotterdam, sharing the stage with Simply Red and Level 42 amongst others.
He was the British Blues Awards Young Artist of the Year in 2014 and 2015.
Laurence headlined the Mold Blues Festival in North Wales earlier this month before taking a break ahead of more dates in Europe and USA, starting with a slot at the Chenango Blues Festival in Norwich, New York.