Chris Jones' vocals — often earthy, always rich and deep, sometimes a bit country — help contribute to his image as one of the finer modern bluegrass artists. He delivers a "low lonesome sound," as the magazine Bluegrass Now described it, distinguishing it from the genre's long-standing definition of the high-pitched "high lonesome sound." Throw in his superb handling of his Gallagher guitar and his straight-to-the heart songwriting skills, and you might expect that this well-rounded bluegrass musician hails from a long line of Southern mountain folk. You'd be wrong, though, for he was born and bred a Yankee, straight from New York State's Buffalo region.
Jones, whose mother was an actress, was 18 years old when he joined a group named Horse Country. While furthering his education as a University of Vermont animal science major, he spent time playing for an outfit called Banjo Dan & the Mid-Nite Plowboys. He became a member of Special Consensus, a band led by banjo player Greg Cahill, during the early '80s. Four years later he moved on to work with guitarist Dave Evans. After settling in Pennsylvania, Jones joined forces with Lee Olsen, Marshall Wilborn, and Lynn Morris in a group called Whetstone Run. He moved on in 1988 to the Weary Hearts, a group that also included Mike Bub, Butch Baldassari, and Ron Block. The newly formed quartet took top honors in a competition sponsored by the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America, and Flying Fish Records put out the group's By Heart album in 1989. His association with Weary Hearts, and Block in particular, led Jones to another life-changing event. He headed north to the Canadian province of Alberta as a guest at Block's wedding, where he met his bandmate's soon-to-be sister-in-law, Sally, the woman Jones would later take as his wife. In 1989, the couple settled in Nashville.
When Weary Hearts disbanded, Jones spent time touring and performing with several different artists, among them the McCarters, Vassar Clements, and the Lynn Morris Band. With Morris he played the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, as he also did with both the Whitstein Brothers and Laurie Lewis. Jones established his own group, the Nightdrivers, in 1995. Rebel Records issued the band's debut CD, No One but You, in 1997. The same year that the Nightdrivers formed, Strictly Country Records put out Jones' debut solo recording, Blinded by the Rose. While his band's sound was influenced by such bluegrass greats as Flatt & Scruggs and the Stanley Brothers, Jones himself draws on the influence of Block, Tony Rice, Larry Sparks, and George Schuffler. "Dark Wind of Missouri," from Blinded by the Rose, held a spot for more than 12 months on the National Bluegrass Survey issued by Bluegrass Unlimited. In addition to creating and playing bluegrass music, Jones writes about it in a column published by the magazine Flatpicking Guitar. ~ Linda Seida