EVERY GENERATION or so a young bluesman bursts onto the scene. Someone who sends a jolt through blues lovers. Someone who has mastered the craft for sure, but who also has the blues deep down in his heart and soul.
At the age of 20, bluesman Jontavious Willis may be the one.
“That’s my Wonderboy, the Wunderkind,” Taj Mahal said after inviting Jontavious to play on stage in 2015. “He’s a great new voice of the twenty-first century in the acoustic blues. I just love the way he plays.”
“When I heard him play I said to myself: this is how the blues, as I know it, is going to stay alive,” said Paul Oscher.
“Only a few like him emerge every decade or so, when even the most hard core blues fans realize immediately that this is the real deal,” writes Frank Matheis in Living Blues Magazine.
““THAT’S MY WONDERBOY, THE WUNDERKIND. [JONTAVIOUS] IS A GREAT NEW VOICE OF THE 21ST CENTURY IN THE ACOUSTIC BLUES. I JUST LOVE THE WAY HE PLAYS.”
– TAJ MAHAL”
Hailing from Greenville, Ga., Jontavious grew up singing gospel music at the Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church with his grandfather. At the age of 14, he came across a YouTube video of Muddy Waters playing “Hoochie Coochie Man” and was hooked. That’s when he set his course on the blues. All types — Delta, Piedmont, Texas, gospel. As a fingerpicker, flat-picker and slide player. On guitar, harmonica, banjo and cigar box.
And four years later he was playing on Taj Mahal’s stage.
Currently Jontavious is finishing his studies at Columbus State University, majoring in sociology. But on most weekends you can find him playing a small house show, up on the main stage or posting music videos for his friends and fans around the world.
Picou is a founding member, principle songwriter and leader of the seminal Louisiana band, Bas Clas, which toured extensively through the Deep South and shared bills with acts as varied as the Ramones, X, Kansas and the Neville Brothers. In the late1980s, Bas Clas moved to Atlanta in an effort to position itself as part of the city’s then-burgeoning independent music scene. While other members of the band eventually drifted back to their familiar Deep South haunts, Picou has remained in Atlanta pursuing a a solo career and continuing to focus on songwriting.
In 2003 Bas Clas reunited for a one-off benefit show in Louisiana. Humbled by their reception, reenergized by the enthusiasm of fans, and propelled by Picou’s newer songs, the band has since released three critically acclaimed albums. In 2012, Big Oak Tree was nominated in the Best Rock Band category in Offbeat magazine’s annual “Best of the Best” issue. That same year, the CD was named in the magazine’s “Top 50 Louisiana Albums.” In 2013, Bas Clas was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.
Despite having made Atlanta his home, Picou’s songwriting still draws on Louisiana influences but they are combined with rock sensibilities and a lyrical style influenced as much by literature as folk music. Picou possesses the ability to compress it all into cohesive, intelligent, immensely listenable – and danceable – songs.