Jontavious Willis Plays the Young Man Blues

Add Greenville, Georgia’s Jontavious Willis to the lineage of the state’s great blues players. The 22-year-old multi-instrumentalist and lyricist keeps the spirit of Blind Willie McTell, Eddie Tigner and other dearly departed legends alive on Spectacular Class, a new album made possible by executive producer Taj Mahal and producer Keb’ Mo’.

In classic terms, Willis’ 10 new songs fit any definition of the blues, from the Piedmont South to the big city. Yet, in today’s terms, such tracks as the rhetorical “Is the Blues Dead?,” the guttural “Friend Zone Blues,” the rootsy “Take Me to the Country,” the hilarious “Long Winded Woman” and morality tale “Liquor” slap as hard as your modern, less classy favorites.

At a time when Americana artists get praised for blurring the lines between roots-based genres, Willis (pictured here with Taj Mahal) proudly and profoundly sticks with what’s worked for generations of Southern guitarists and lyricists. Once you’ve taken in these 10 songs, you’ll hope he never stops fighting the good fight for classic blues practitioners.