Jones Family Singers to celebrate equality and joy through song

by Betty Kim | 1/19/17 12:40am

Making music for racial harmony, healing and hope just between Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day, the Jones Family singers will perform today in Spaulding Auditorium.

Comprised in part by five sisters, two brothers and their father, the Jones Family Singers are a gospel ensemble from the small town of Markham, Texas. The group earned significant recognition both locally and in mainstream media but continually emphasized sharing the joy of the gospel and the healing quality of song with people of all backgrounds as its musical mission.

“We want to reach every area there is on this creation and share what God has given us — a ministry of love [and] showing that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above anything you could ask or think,” said Alexis Jones, lead singer and youngest daughter of the Jones family.

According to Jones, the ensemble toured nine countries and over 47 states. The members are currently on tour as a part of their Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, which pays homage to King as a leader of the Civil Rights movement. Fred Jones said that the tour is meant to celebrate his role as a “drum major for freedom.”

Bishop Fred A. Jones, father of the Jones family, pastor and founder of the Mt. Zion Pentecostal Cathedral of Markham and the chief executive officer of Family-Styled Records, praised King for giving the world an opportunity for all ethnicities to exercise the rights that he tenaciously fought for.

“He cared for all men. And that’s the message ­— it’s not just this hue, but [also] this hue,” Fred Jones said.

Fred Jones also emphasized unity while commenting on the group’s origins in the black church, saying that the ensemble’s music is fused with a variety of sounds from different cultures in order to reach a variety of people. He remarked that while others might not understand growing up in the black church, or the story and plight of the black church, the Jones Family Singers try to take different backgrounds and cultures into consideration for the development of mutual understanding.

The Jones Family Singers recently recorded a cover of Johnny Cash’s song “All of God’s Children Ain’t Free.” Fred Jones said that cover also has some stylistic additions that give the song a “Jones Family signature.” According to Alexis Jones, the group often combines their traditional gospel style with different genres like rock and roll, R&B and country, and modernizes the group’s style to keep various audiences energized.

Fred Jones noted how this song expressed a need for unity among Americans, saying that the plight of one group should be everyone’s fight.

“We say to the powers that be: until those that you serve — those that elected you to lead and govern — until you remember them and not walk on them, all God’s children ain’t free,” Fred Jones said.

The group also released an album called “Live from Mount Zion” in 2015, a year after its 2014 album “The Spirit Speaks” received critical acclaim. “Live from Mount Zion” was recorded at the Mt. Zion Pentecostal Holiness Church in the family’s hometown.

The Jones Family Singers have been performing in Pentecostal churches for over three decades but have started performing for those outside the faith in the last few years. In 2015, director Alan Berg explored this journey in his documentary “The Jones Family Will Make a Way.” The band also performed at the South by Southwest film festival in 2014, where Rolling Stone and National Public Radio described the performance as “a must see act.”

Commenting on its mainstream success, Fred Jones cited the group’s continuing devotion to music and the spread of gospel as a constant, whether the family performs in a spiritual or a cultural institution.

“We know that a lot of folk don’t know traditional gospel,” Fred Jones said. “They know Michael Jackson, James Brown, Beyoncé, so we layer [the gospel] on top of some of the beats. They know the beat and get with it, but they also hear the message, and it changes it a lot of lives.”

According to Alexis Jones, the program for tomorrow’s concert will also mainly be gospel, with some “soul-stirrers” in the mix. She said the performance will include an energizing program with lots of audience participation, “movement, excitement and joy.”