Aristotle Jones is known as the Appalachian Soul Man. Combining his African American roots found in the Mountain State with the music of the modern world, Jones has released two singles titled “Ready” and “Too Cool” that represent a hybrid of influences combined to create a positive new groove.
What is unique about these singles and the other new music to come from Jones is that the recordings were released on West Virginia University’s student-run label called Go 1st Records. The label was formed under the Mon Hills Music Group created by the WVU College of Creative Arts’ Music Industry Program led by professor Darko Velichkovski. More information on the program can be found at ccarts.wvu.edu.
Jones’ two recently dropped singles can be heard on many streaming services such as Spotify, YouTube, iTunes and more, all linked to here https://musics.link/30723vtrA1 and here https://musics.link/30723AiG3p.
Following in the footsteps of Black West Virginia music legends such as Bill Withers, Jones is about combining music from all the different cultures found in the state to create his own groove.
“I grew up in Huntington and graduated from Huntington High School back in 1998, so I was one of the original Highlanders,” said Jones. “I started playing music more seriously back in 2003. I had a band called Aristotle and the Excellent Lovers that played in Huntington a lot. In fact, we were the second band to ever play at the V Club when it opened. Now the club is known as The Loud, but that is how long I’ve been around.”
Jones always had the desire to be a singer, influenced by the popular R&B groups of the 1990s. His grandfather sang in church and let the very young Jones know that he had a voice as well, if he wanted to pursue it. Now, with the guitar also in his arsenal, Jones has released two new cuts that mark a fresh direction for the singer.
“My whole thing is I always wanted to make something that is unique and creative,” said Jones. “I just feel like art is a great way to express yourself. So, to grow up wanting to be an R&B and soul singer in West Virginia in the hills and hollers, you have to take your influences from wherever you get them. I am inspired by the different sounds found around here that everybody else is listening to. My Mom is from California, so I have a mix of influences from West Virginia and California, so that is where I get my Appalachian Soul sound.”
Jones’ Appalachian roots can be traced back to his grandfather and great-grandfather who both lived in Osage, West Virginia, located across the Monongahela River from Morgantown.
“I live in Osage now,” said Jones. “My grandfather, Robert Jones, was a coal miner during the day, working long hours underground for 25 years, and he was an electrician after that. In the evening hours, he also ran a 100-acre farm. Everything he did was about hard work and hands in the dirt. In my song ‘The Talk,’ I have a line that says how everyone used to joke that ‘everyone was Black down in the coal mines,’ because your face was covered in coal dust. But when my grandfather was coming up, there was also segregation so when he would get to the top of the mine and see the light, that is when everyone’s differences started coming out versus being underground. So, I am very connected to the state through coal mining and telling that legacy and by being myself and representing a new perspective on Appalachia.”
With his new recordings, Jones has crafted an upbeat and distinctive take on soul music.
“A lot of the songs on the full album I am about to put out over the course of the next several months can be described as music you would hear if you were driving through Osage during many of its various heydays,” said Jones. “But, I also write music from a contemporary perspective. My song ‘Ready’ has a Marvin Gaye feel to it, and my single ‘Too Cool’ has a nice, little summer beat vibe to it. During the pandemic, I took some time to sit down and write these songs, and I was able to get into the studio and get them recorded at Go 1st Records at WVU in Morgantown that is run by students. I’ve been playing music in West Virginia for a couple of decades now, so having this opportunity to project my music a bit farther and have more reach by partnering up with WVU has been great.”
Jones is also about sharing the musical wealth of the region in the form of hosting a radio show on WAJR and hosting a podcast called “It Sounds Good To Me.”
“Not only do I want to extend my reach and have people hear my music and see my brand, I also want to create opportunities for West Virginia music fans to connect with West Virginia artists,” said Jones. “I want us to be proud of what we’re doing. If you are making art in West Virginia, it is not the easiest place to be seen, discovered, found, heard or experienced. The whole idea is that artists want to be here because they are proud to be from here. Even as I tour up and down the East Coast, I am a proud ambassador of West Virginia, and I like to blow people’s minds by the music I make and the stories I tell and the history. I try to get more people engaged in not only my story, but telling their own stories as well.”
More information on the Appalachian Soul Man can be found at aristotlejones.com.