Love Jones at
Rudyard Kipling

By Leonard January

The heat that was being pushed around by the ceiling fans at the Rudyard Kipling on June 14 was stifling. The smoke and humidity in the room were out of control. As I walked in the front door I had to sidestep and burrow my way to a place in the rear of the room, seeking out a "haven" to listen to Love Jones. There's a simple mathematical equation that can be applied here. Heat plus smoke plus elbows and armpits in my face equal a bad time.

But mathematical equations, like incomplete recipes, usually need some ingredient to make the cow fly. Love Jones started playing and "voila!" All of a sudden their Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66 sound diffused through the air and I was no longer bothered by the heat. I forgot about the smoke. I did not question the armpits. I was in a small cafe where the women are young and exotic and beautiful and ... and ... Ben Daughtrey's Panamanian hat was pushed down around his lower eyebrows. It pulsated up and down as he thumped, patted and dabbed out the rhythms on his twin congas.

The congas, like Mr. Daughtrey, are the mainstays of the band Love Jones. Barry Thomas on bass, Chris Hawpe on rhythm guitar, and Jonathan Palmer on vocals round out the balance of this vastly creative and different band. I guess the main factor that would set them apart from 99% of the groups that I've heard is that they could pack up all their instruments after playing for two solid, straight hours to an audience of eighteen-to-thirty-year-olds, then take a bus to a nursing home in East Butte, Montana, and play the same exact set for an assemblage of octogenarians. Both audiences would love their music. As Ben Daughtrey says, "Our music is made up of real simple melodies that my grandmother likes very much ... that's a good test for me. If she likes it, then I know I'm on the right track."

The music is all original and it is a fusion of some jazz and Latin American rhythms supported with very tight harmonies. Mr. Daughtrey and his other vocal assistant, Jonathan Palmer, play off each other in totally improvised bantering with the audience much like Ricky Ricardo would do with Lucy. Mr. Palmer is quite the comedian and, in all honesty, I could really see this band becoming a real cult underground phenomenon. The rest of the players almost act as straight men for these two. The comedy is subtle, sarcastic and is constantly poking fun at everything that the band encounters, including announcing that they will refuse to pay their sound man any more money because of the atrocious job that he keeps doing for them. I'm sure the sound man got the message.

The sound was pretty terrible. I really would have liked to have heard the lyrics to their songs. Songs like the classic "Alligator" that tells of life "down in the swamps where they got lots of fun" to a tune entitled "Whiskey, the Moon and Me." These songs, like all their others, evoke the "low brow" style of songwriting that Mr. Daughtrey principles himself with.

Their style of music is not easy to play. Chris Hawpe and Barry Thomas do an exceptional job of keeping things under control musically. Everybody contributes to make this a thoroughly enjoyable and animated evening.

Love Jones does have intentions of getting out and starting to tour outside of Louisville. Mr. Daughtrey is an accomplished rock drummer who occasionally offers up his services to groups around the country such as Atlantic recording artists, The Lemonheads. But one gets the impression that Mr. Daughtrey would rather be playing the Love Jones style of music than straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. I tend to agree with him.

I think that Love Jones, with management that can be perceptual enough to understand this band's drawing card, can create a place for themselves on a national basis. Until that happens, Mr. Daughtrey and company will continue to live and die by the congas. "We're just four young white boys enjoying themselves," says Daughtrey.