Liverpool singer/songwriter John Jenkins has a story to tell. He’s got a bit of history, too, and is about to release his debut solo album, ‘Trains’. The quietly spoken Scouser has built up quite a following online and it’s the Internet and social media that have brought the ex-Persuaders and Come in Tokio man to the fore again. By Alan O’Hare.
The Internet has a lot to answer for. Especially to the music business. At the very top of the tree, it’s changed the game. For the rest? It’s been a killer. One of the rare treats it’s brought, though, is the opportunity it offers any artist to get their music heard.
John Jenkins has done it both ways. The Scouser, now living over the water, was a driving force in Liverpool eighties’ heroes Come in Tokio and The Persuaders. Both bands released records, toured and played Peel sessions… in old money, they did it properly. Neither managed to stick together and Jenkins’ talent disappeared into the real world, however.
But he never stopped writing. And now, some two decades later, this modest and unassuming singer has released his debut solo album and is contending all over again. Sure, there’s been radio play, online coverage and gigs galore, but something tangible – with Jenkins’ name front and centre – is out in the world. And it might just break your heart.
Jenkins’ music hovers rather than soars and ‘Trains’ is a record that will reveal itself to you slowly, twelve stations down the line. The songs have a way of soaking into your skin and send you back for repeated listening… the sign of all great music. The record flows, too, and its minor key laments and happy hooks provide the light and shade all good albums require to attract attention. The title track is as mournful as a train pulling away from the station around the corner from your first love, ‘The Paris Wife’ ebbs and flows like a long-lost outtake from The Decemberists and ‘Someday We’ll See Better Days’ attempts to update ‘Let It Be’ for the digital natives and very nearly pulls it off. Nearly.
It’s not all delicate deliveries and blue notes, though. ‘It’s Raining’ sounds like Bert Berns producing Sam Cooke, while the bright and breezy ‘That Girl Is Going To Make You Cry’ would have been a radio hit in any of the decades that preceded this Millennium. Is ‘Trains’ a record out of time, then? Perhaps… but if it is, it’s not the fault of the music on offer. Trends, algorithms and hashtags may consume the life out of us today, but very good songs, played by great musicians, are still the only currency that counts when we get down to the nitty gritty.
The nitty gritty of Jenkins’ songs is love, loss and longing presented on a bed of gentle guitars, violin lines, dancing accordions and proper harmonies. All aboard…
John Jenkins, ‘Trains’, out now