Marti Jones may not be one of the best-known singers in pop music, but she is certainly one of the best. The woman from Canton, Ohio, combines the clear, plaintive folk quality of Joni Mitchell with a tawnier hue that can recall Jackie DeShannon or Bonnie Raitt. Over the course of four albums since 1985, she has shown a particular knack for conveying the ache of relationships gone wrong. She plays that strong suit for all it's worth on "Any Kind of Lie," a new album full of songs about women emotionally chained to hurting guys.
It's enough to make a male listener want to reach out to the winsome Jones, give her a warm hug and promise to show her that men aren't all lying, insensitive no-accounts.
This would probably not be the best idea, however. That balding bass player in Jones' band is her husband, Don Dixon--himself an unsung pop hero and the co-author, with his wife, of most of those new songs about love's miserable chains.
The Jones-Dixon story follows a Cinderella-meets-Prince Charming line. Jones had graduated from the coffeehouse music scene at Kent State University, where she studied medical illustration, to a rock band called Color Me Gone. The band folded after putting out one record and as far as Jones was concerned, she'd had it with the music business and was ready to go back to the drawing board. But Dixon, known for his production work on R.E.M.'s influential early albums, was impressed by her singing with Color Me Gone. He called on Jones--not with a glass slipper, but with an offer to produce a solo record for her. The result was 1985's "Unsophisticated Time," one of the quiet, fetching gems of '80s pop.
By the time of Jones' second album, "Match Game," her relationship with Dixon had become romantic as well as professional. A third album, "Used Guitars," continued Jones' pattern of unearthing obscure nuggets by such fine sources as John Hiatt, the dBs, Elvis Costello, Richard Barone and the '70s rock band Free. "Any Kind of Lie" marks a new turn toward self-generated material: All but two songs are original collaborations between Jones and Dixon. Another departure is Jones' glamorous Lauren Bacall look on the album cover--a far cry from the folksy, down-home image she has always exuded. The music doesn't belie any bid to move uptown, though, making one wonder whether the cover photo isn't a tongue-in-cheek gloss on the album's concern with deception.
Who: Marti Jones.
When: Tuesday, July 24, 8 p.m.
Where: The Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano. Also on the bill: Eggplant and Too Many Joes.
Whereabouts: Interstate 5 to the San Juan Creek Road exit. Left onto Camino Capistrano. The Coach House is in the Esplanade Center.
Where to call: (714) 496-8930.