The combination of Aristotle Jones’s smooth, mellow voice and his warm acoustic guitar is at the heart of this personal and soulful ballad. The accompanying video for ‘Streets of Osage’, created by William Walker Films, takes the viewer on a trip to Scott’s Run Annual Street Fair in Osage and the Scott’s Run Museum and Trail. We get a charming glimpse of life in Jones’s home town as he sings alongside his grandfather. It’s delightful to see the joy that Jones takes in his performance; his smile is broad as he plays and performs and takes us on a trip round town. Together with the lyrics, the video creates a real sense of place and history effectively.
Jones relates the personal nature of the song: “I’ve spent the last 3 years in Osage WV, learning about my family roots there. For the last 100 years I have had at least one relative living in this small coal mining town on the northern edge of West Virginia and now it’s my turn. I was inspired by the knowledge of my family history shared with me by elders of the community, and how warmly they regarded my Great Grandparents, Grandparents, and even my Father who all were raised and raised their families in Osage. Life was hard in the poverty stricken mining town and to quote Al Anderson, the 86 year old Rock & Soul singer and town historian, ‘Nobody looked down on anybody, because we all had the same nickel and dime,’ referring to the tight knit community made up of families of first generation immigrants from over 19 European countries, and relocated blacks from the American South. The Christopher mines were the economic lifeblood of Osage and surrounding communities however the collapse of the Christopher #3 mine claimed the lives of multiple generations of miners and the cruel practices of the company store claimed the livelihoods of many others. Despite poverty level conditions and economic exploitation, imminent domain and gentrification , Osage WV still stands. It is a town that exemplifies the West Virginia and Appalachian values of resilience, determination, and fortitude. And that is the message I try to encapsulate though the lyrics, music and video for ‘Streets of Osage’.”
Jones grew up in Southern West Virginia surrounded by music, particularly the sound of his grandfather singing. he explains: “My granddad was a great singer with a voice that rang with vibrato that rivaled Nat King Cole. He would teach me gospel songs from hymnals, or show me how to play the note right on his harmonica when all the work was done in the hay fields and all the animals were fed.” It seems inevitable that he has pursued a life in song, still inspired by his grandfather and the tunes and hymns that he absorbed through childhood. Jones moved in with his grandfather following the death of his grandmother: “Here I was now in the same place where, decades before, my grandfather was teaching me to sing hymns, about to learn the lesson that has shaped who I have become since. There is something about a hard day’s farm work – taking care of pigs, weeding a substantial garden, driving a tractor, putting up cans – that will definitely kill the ego.” The two worked together and sang together just as they had done years before.
He continues: “Country was king! So much of my early musical experiences were shaped by the storytelling and catchy hooks of ‘NASCAR’ county.” This was fused with other influences, such as Motown and funk from his parents and the school, church and college choirs that were part of his early life. The end result is an absorbing form of Appalacian soul.
The single is taken from Jones’s recent album ‘Mountain Doo-Wop & The Streets of Osage’, a collection of songs that takes us back to the the small town of Osage where his grandparents fell in love, his parents were raised and his early childhood. It’s a journey that takes us back in time to the feel of Osage when it was the vibrant centre of the Scott’s Run Settlement coal town. Jones explains: “Mountain Doo-Wop is actually the main character of the record. These tales are told through his eyes. A singer who left his small-town home chasing success, only to find that what he was really looking for was there all along. This record is a tribute to my family, and ode to my parents’ record collection that by now I’ve owned almost as long as them. More than that, though, this is a record that speaks to the power of LOVE. The power to endure the struggle of living in rural Appalachia during Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and all the way through to today. Experience is wisdom, Love without Fear. One of the last pieces of advice that my Granddad gave me before he passed was ‘Just Be Yourself Man…You Know What You Are Doing.'”
Check out ‘Streets of Osage’ and the new album – it’s genuine, heartfelt stuff. “It’s in my roots, my soil, and in the air that I breathe.” Indeed.