Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kevin Jenkins - 'Til The Story's Told (2015)

When I received a review copy of Kevin Jenkins' new album, 'Til the Story's Told, I didn't recognize the bass player's name at first. Then, it occurred to me that Jenkins is the gentleman who played on Black 47's Home of the Brave CD way back in 1994. He left the Celtic rockers after just one album but the band saw fit to namecheck him later on the humorous "Green Suede Shoes," one of their autobiographical songs. After that, I never heard of him again, until now.

Jenkins has released only one other album in his own name but he's had a fine career as a successful sideman. He has played in all of the great halls including Budokan, Royal Albert Hall, and Madison Square Garden and opened concerts for Michael Jackson, The Police, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, BB King, and Joe Cocker. Jenkins has also played alongside Cyndi Lauper, Enrique Iglesias, Graham Parker, Holly Palmer, October Project, Cliff Eberhardt, Tom Rush, and Shemekia Copeland who sang with him on his first album.

'Til the Story's Told is inspired by recent events in Jenkins' life. He got married and his wife's daughter had a baby. He also lost his father.

The album's lyrics are very spiritual and a listener may surmise from it that Jenkins is quite religious. Several of the songs allude to salvation and even the ones that don't deal with the subject directly, such as the rocking "Crazy Weather" which in reality may be about nothing more than an approaching nasty storm, could be interpreted as discussing Armageddon when taken in context with the album as a whole.

When asked, Jenkins said, "I'm not a Christian in the formal sense, though I have no issue with organized religion." He went on to explain that he does believe in a "spirit and of things unseen" but he's unsure where he "falls along the religious spectrum." Jenkins states that the real intention of his writing is to share what is going on in his life as honestly as possible.

Instrumentally, this disc is astounding. It opens with a cover of Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit in the Sky." Jenkins slows it down a bit and turns it into a JJ Cale style shuffle. The track opens with a chorus chanting the words "Jesus and Moses, Mohammed, and Krishna" before it segues into the main song. The chant returns at the end but in between the tune is highlighted by the lead ax work of Tomas Doncker who just may be the best blues-rock guitarist you've never heard. His work on the two songs mentioned above requires that he be singled out because, despite Jenkins' finely tuned vocals and his deeply personal songs, this album would not be as successful without Doncker's contributions.

"Tangled Up" and the single, "Janie's Silver Lining," sound like Robert Cray has stepped up to the microphone and the bandleader's soulful take on the ballad "Before You Close Your Eyes" is truly emotional. The harmonica-accented, soulful romp that is the title track includes another Doncker standout performance.

The rock songs are better than the ballads and the singer-songwriter entries but, overall, Jenkins' work is satisfying enough to be showcased in every shop that still sells CDs and as a featured attraction on all of the online music stores.

Kevin Jenkins' website is here.

Here is a video from Jenkins' first album.

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