We’ve all been a bit over whelmed with events over the last few months and the fact that I was forced to navigate my way through a few tough times in non-musical, non-scribbly ways to keep the wolf from the door means that I have returned to the writing desk way behind the musical curve. Also, given the monumental size of the review pile, I was faced with two options – either get down to some serious writing or apply for planning permission for the stack of CDs. So here we are.
Ironically John Jenkins most recent solo album is just the sort of music that I should have been playing through those times to help reduce stress levels and relax. Growing Old is a collection of wonderful reflections and insightful narratives put to gentle acoustica and adorned deftly and sparingly only when truly needed. The first thing which strikes you is just how wonderful John’s voice is, soft and seductive for the most part, any drama or power coming from his ability with delivery, turn of phrase, lingering anticipation and atmospherics rather than resorting to anything as pedestrian as raising his voice.
But right behind it is a series of majestic and cleverly woven musical backdrops, again more about textures than impact. But even with the sparse sonic palette he has chosen to work with there is a fantastic range of sounds and styles, from the hushed and drifting A Wiser Man Than Me to the rolling country groove of Bear Lake County. The title track, which opens proceedings, is a lovely balance of acoustic intimacy and shimmering folk tones, Jackson’s Farm is driven by banks of cinematic strings, romantic and reflective and The Last Song is a blend of emotive, Celtic-infused sounds and heart-tugging sentiment, not to mention no small amount of James Taylor delicacy hanging above it.
There is a real art to writing songs which are romantic rather than slushy, truly emotive rather than merely a string of hollow sentiments, which have real longevity, which feel honest and full of integrity, which go straight to the heart because they come from the heart. John Jenkins has that art in no small amount.