Robert Johnson has a lucky name for a roots musician. But when he created his band, the musician sidestepped comparisons to the blues legend, naming it Moses Jones & The Dirty Southern Soul. The group’s hybrid sound recalls the classic Southern-rock flavor of Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers, and Johnson, the lead singer, keeps his slide guitar at the center of the mix. He previously released a 2011 album, Carolina Days, but the music he makes these days is even more reflective of his deep North Carolina roots. The Charlotte-based band plays regionally, traveling farther afield for festival performances. Between shows, the group is working on a new album of original material at Charlotte’s Blue Bubble Studios. “We’re really stoked to bring those tunes to our fans,” says Johnson.
When the band first came together, did you have a clear vision of what you would sound like?
Clear vision? Ha! We had no idea; we just showed up and started playing.
Is the Southern character in your music something that comes naturally?
Very naturally. I’m Southern born and bred.
Your band name describes your music: dirty Southern soul. What does that mean?
To me, “Dirty Southern Soul” is what the South really is all about. Our music is as organic as the red clay that the South is built upon. It sings with the freedom of gospel and cries the blues of any brokenhearted man or woman. You can still hear that high and lonesome sound blowing through the pines.
The band plays club gigs and festivals, two very different kinds of shows. How do you approach those differently?
Our sets are built upon the type of venue we’re playing. At festivals, we come out fast and groovy; we don’t take a break, because it’s our job to keep the festivalgoers movin’ and groovin’. When we play bars, we have a better chance at slowing it down now and then.
What’s the most creatively fulfilling thing about this project?
We offer something that I call musical healing. We play in 432Hz tuning [known as “Verdi’s A”] because that resonates with the heart chakra. It’s been shown to lighten people’s loads and give them feelings of love. For us, every gig is as important as the last, because we’re on a mission to help and make the world a better place.
What’s been your favorite performance to date?
Playing at the world-famous bar The Bowery in Myrtle Beach after we crushed the big stage at the Carolina Country Music Fest in 2017.
What connection is there between the 2011 Carolina Days album and the music you’re making now?
I’m the only connection to what we’re doing these days. When we put that record together, none of us had ever been in the studio. I learned so much about what and what not to do, and how important it is to catch that moment in time when you start rolling the tape.
Where does the inspiration for specific songs come from?
Inspiration is everywhere, and in all things that I hear and see: brokenhearted people in bars, butterflies on the freeway, fire-and-brimstone preachers … the list goes on and on.
So who is Moses Jones?
The name is a play on words, Moses [being] the pinnacle of the Old Testament and Jones is kinda like my last name, Johnson: very common. It’s saying that no matter who you are or where you were born or what type of environment you were born into, you can rise to the top of the mountain just like Moses. When I started this band, I didn’t realize the changes that would occur in my own life. I was at the lowest point of my existence in the world, a place that I had created by not living my dream. Then the music started to change me and shape me into a better version of myself — a musical enlightenment, if you wish.
Moses Jones & The Dirty Southern Soul play Point Lookout Vineyards (408 Applelola Road, Hendersonville, 828-808-8923, pointlookoutvineyards.com) on Friday, Oct. 26, and at B&B Feed and Music (14 South Gaston St., Brevard, 828-883-2236, bbfeedandmusic.com) on Saturday, Nov. 3. For more information, see the band’s Facebook page or mosesjonesmusic.com.