John Jenkins - Album: Growing Old - Songs From My Front Porch
"Growing Old - Songs From My Front Porch" is the new album from celebrated Liverpool singer/songwriter John Jenkins and the follow-up to his well-received album [with The James Street Band ] "Looking For That American Dream".
"Songs From My Front Porch" is an apposite sub-title for the album as it is an intimate, reflective collection of songs about life, relationships , love, loneliness and happiness. The music matches John's excellent songwriting ,in that it warm , melodic ,immersive and immaculately played by some excellent musicians , principally Jon Lawton who also co-produced the album with John.
The album begins with the title song "Growing Old" which deals with coming to terms with , well, getting on in years. Like many of us do , the writer wonders "whatever happened to the youthful me ?" but realises that , in the end, "that's the way it has to be".
"Daniel White" is an empathetic song about a lonely old man and wonders what people would think of him if they had known him when he was young. The song has a country-ish feel courtesy of a fine violin solo by Amy Chalmers of the excellent duo Two Black Sheep. Amy's violin also features prominently on the lilting, Celtic-flavoured "Heartlands" song about leaving someone or somewhere to make a new start.
"A Mother's Devotion" takes the view of a mother who has a problem child but will defend him to the hilt. Phil Chisnall on mandolin and Jon Lawton on Spanish guitar provide a splendid musical backdrop.
The only co-write on the album is the lovely , evocative "This Mountain Between Us" which features a superb duet between John and "Nashville Liverbird" Siobahn Maher-Kennedy, formerly of River City People. John co-wrote the song with Kendra Boardman at Chris Difford's songwriting retreat in 2019 and this is clearly a successful combination.
"Bear Lake County" is a pure country song which John says was clearly influenced by the Late Great Townes Van Zandt. The country feel is emphasised by Amy Chalmers' violin, John Armstrong's banjo and a Ghost-Riders-In-The-Sky-ish guitar riff.
"Dying By Inches" is a telling reflection of the hardships endured in Trump's America where "nothing is sacred, nothing seems fair". David Nixon's harmonica echoes the mournful feel of the lyrics.
Perhaps my favourite track on the album is "Jackson's Farm" , a beautifully atmospheric piece about the loneliness and solitude of a prairie farmer. The gorgeous, sweeping string arrangement by Amy Chalmers evokes a vast , empty, endless landscape . A magical, stunning track and one which just gets better every time I listen to it , which is often.
"A Wiser Man Than Me" is companion piece to "Growing Old" in that it is a reflection on life and the choices that you have made.
"I'm Coming Home" also fits the "Growing Old" theme , as it celebrates the love of an elderly couple who have lived together all of their lives , since they first met way back in school.
"I'm Almost Over You" is a fine song , reflecting the dying embers of a relationship and similar in sentiment to 10 cc's "I'm Not In Love".
"The Last Song" is a touching tribute to the lonely , last survivor of a species of bird, the Bachman Warbler , which lived in Virginia. The bird sang in vain to attract a non-existent mate and the bird's song is beautifully represented by the mellifluous flute of Andy Connally.
But wait , there's a surprise. "The Last Song" is not , in fact, the last song on the album as there is a hidden bonus track which may or may not be called "I Just Don't Care Any More". This a jaunty, upbeat, tongue-in-cheek romp about , well, just not caring which features a great duet between Amy on violin and Jon on guitar.
John Jenkins says that his aim in making this album was "to record a selection of intimate songs that could resonate with the listener". Well , John , you have certainly achieved that aim , for here we have a collection of warm , empathetic, personal and resonant songs which are akin to having a deep conversation with an old friend , someone with whom you feel comfortable. Excellent album , highly recommended