His name is unusual and his music matches. Coventry Jones is a local, multi-talented musician who has been playing the Milwaukee scene for quite a while.
Jones, who lists James Taylor, Neil Young, Cat Stevens and The Dave Matthews Band as his main influences, plays bluesy, folky, Dylan-esque songs. Many of his songs have a humorous aspect to them, such as a reworking of Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville" into "Microwaveable," or a political tinge, like the song "Green Earth Turns Black," written several years ago about conservation for Earth Day and inspired by his job as a door-to- door eco-activist.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio Jones began playing guitar in high school. After graduatng from John Carroll University he worked in radio and advertising. He became a full-time musician after college and then made his way to Milwaukee with a musical, political comedy act called Puppet Government, which traveled the country and sang on street corners from Atlanta to Minneapolis.
Jones is keeping busy and focusing on the college market by doing a national tour of colleges to get exposure.
"It's mostly a coffeehouse, solo acoustic series," he said.
Besides coffeehouses, Jones can also be found playing in clubs and festivals, most notably Summerfest on the Johnny On Washday stage behind the Potawatomi Bingo Stage. You also might find him busking, or playing for money, on the streets of Milwaukee.
"It's easier to find me in the summer," Jones said. "You just get some battery-powered amps and play."
Attracted by the central location and many festivals, Jones has been here for 10 years. Though mainly a guitarist, he also plays bass, keyboard and harmonica.
Jones' fifth original CD is called Love Ashbury(2004). It features new acoustic material and redone songs from his previous albums Cosmic Truth(1998), Bottle From The Sea(2001), Cosmic Cab Ride To Everywhere(2002) and Velvet Room Acoustic Set(2003) and was produced by Scott Finch(Comet Records, Italy), a locally known producer who also contributed instrumental work to the album.
Jones, who was nominated for a Wisconsin Area Music Industry Award (W.A.M.I.) for best singer/songwriter, says sometimes the crowds aren't always as accepting as the critics.
"Sometimes I didn't get the respect I should've out there," he said. "But it's up to you to be versatile and entertaining in all situations."
While Jones' live band has been praised by famous Chicago blues musician Buddy Guy, Jones says if he could play with anybody, it would be with his influences.
It would be fun to see how they put the songs together," he said. "It would be fun to relax with some of my musical influences, just hang out and play."
Written by Hillary Hatton, The Marquette Tribune. Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI.