Before listening to Coventry Jones' music, put all cynicism in a pipe and smoke it, because whether he's singing about the environment or the death of his father, Coventry Jones, known as C.J. to his friends, always sings with sincerity.
Originally from Cleveland, C.J. came to Milwaukee in 1992 with Puppet Government, a political comedy act that performed on street corners and subway stations between Atlanta and Minneapolis. Today, his lyrics still dabble into humor and politics, and are also influenced by "campfire" folk songs. Consequently, his tunes are mellow but upbeat, and conscious but never self-conscious. Jones is much the same: You're just as likely to find him busking alone on North Avenue as you are in front of large crowds at Summerfest with bandmates Scott Finch (electric guitar), Western Box Turtles' Tom Schwark (mandolin) and Terry "d animal" or Gregg Slavik (drums).
Jones' true talent lives in his breezy-but-controlled voice that has the richness of James Taylor's, especially noticeable in the song "Hello, Hello," the opening track on "Cosmic Cab Ride to Everywhere." C.J is comfortable being compared to Taylor because, along with Bob Dylan and Neil Young, he's one of his mentors.
Since 1998, Jones self-released two albums, "Cosmic Truth" and "Cosmic Cab Ride To Everywhere." He is currently finishing up a new CD of remixes and new material and hopes to release it this fall. Dan Wilson, founder of the Milwaukee Independent Film Society, produced a video of "Green Earth Turns Black," a pro-environment anthem that Jones wrote in honor of Earth Day in 1995.
This fall, Jones plans to tour the Midwest college circuit. He will also play in a singer/songwriter's circle at Conway's on 21st and Wells every Thursday night in September, October and November. Plus, he'll play at the Taste of Madison Festival Sat., Aug. 31 and Sun., Sept. 1. Feeling groovy? Check it out.
Ten quick questions for Coventry:
OMC: Is Coventry Jones your real name?
CJ: Yes. I'm English and Coventry is a city in England.
OMC: Have you ever met anyone else names Coventry?
CJ: A girl from the East Coast once E-mailed me because she was also named Coventry.
OMC: Did you go to The Other Ones show a few weeks ago?
CJ: No. But I used to see a lot of Grateful Dead Shows. Once I bought a telescope at a yard sale, set it up in the parking lot of Soldier Field before a Dead Show and charged people a dollar to see the moon. It was a crazy moon, so it was worth it.
OMC: Do you have a day job?
CJ: No. Chasing people down to book shows is my day job. I'm always trying to squeeze into their five-minute windows.
OMC: I noticed Sarah Kozar (Sixty-Watt Sarah) sings on one of your albums. How did that happen?
CJ: She's a friend and neighbor from Riverwest. She went to art school in Cleveland, and I'm from Cleveland, so we overlapped in life twice.
OMC: How many guitars do you own?
CJ: I don't even know. Let's see ...Three acoustic, four electric, two or three basses. (Laughing) I don't even play bass.
OMC: You're a politcal guy, so who would you like to see become the President of the United States?
CJ: Nader would've been good. Otherwise, Zappa's dead, but he would've been okay, or maybe Neil Young.
OMC:Would you ever cut your hair?
OMC: Is the general public more or less concerned about the environment these days?
CJ: People are definitely paying more attention these days and are more conscious.
OMC: OK, this is a two part question: How much do you make busking on an average day and where is the best place in Milwaukee to busk?
CJ: I make $50 a day, on average. Water Street at bar time is probably the best time and place to busk, or somewhere downtown after one of the festivals. It's not always a musical crowd, but it's a crowd, always with one drunk yelling "Free Bird!"
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.