“I almost said, ‘Spasibo,’” Alexis Jones laughed to the crowd a few songs into the Jones Family Singers' revelatory set Thursday night at the Dakota Jazz Club. “But we’re not in Russia anymore.”
For Alexis and her family/bandmates, Minnesota undoubtedly felt worlds away from Baytown, Texas, and the people here do talk kind of funny. But the Jones family translated without any trouble in their first Twin Cities performance – and in Minneapolis’ regal jazz club, which turned electric on a level that even a lot of rock acts who play there fail to achieve.
The 90-minute show came just a day after the ascendant gospel group returned from a tour or Russia, working its way to both the Winnipeg and Newport folk festivals. The Mavis Staples-style lead singer of the group -- but with more of a Sharon Jones kind of dynamo presence -- Alexis recounted how the stage banter that plays an integral role in their performance mostly fell on deaf ears in Russia until they got a big response just chanting the Lord’s name in zero vain during “Try Jesus.” She surmised, “I should’ve just been singing ‘Jesus!’ all along.”
Thursday's peformance was more ‘Jesus!’ than the Dakota has ever witnessed, club owner Lowell Pickett recollected at the show, aside from maybe sets by the Blind Boys of Alabama or Mighty Clouds of Joy. It really fit in well, too. Had Pops Staples been still around to back Mavis on guitar during her Dakota gigs, it might’ve been something like what transpired during “Bones in the Valley.” The family band – father/minister Fred Jones, his five daughters, two sons, a drummer and guitarist plus (on a few songs) matriarch Sarah Jones – hit a deep, low groove that would put a lot of Minnesota’s blues and funk bands to shame. The women rose up with some divine harmonies later in “I Love You” and several other tunes.
“Show 'em we’re from Texas,” Alexis barked to guitarist Ezra Bryant at one point, when he went off on a particularly bluesy bender. We knew they weren’t from Russia, anyway.