SING THE CHANGES: JOHN JENKINS & THE JAMES STREET BAND

 

Prolific songwriter John Jenkins is back with a new EP of rockers and ballads. The Scouser has made changes to his sound, though, and added the slick bite of The James Street Band for half of ‘Day After Day’. Has it worked? The title track will certainly grab your attention, but it’s on the more reflective refrains that Jenkins whispers his secret into your ear. By Alan O’Hare. 

From the title track’s feedback-drenched intro, to its incessant fuzz guitar riff, it’s all change for Liverpool songwriter John Jenkins and his new ‘Day After Day’ EP. The former-Persuaders and Come in Tokio man has been here before, the change in his music (from sophisticated eighties new wave to piano-led laments) when he returned a while back from twenty years of inactivity was apparent immediately. But this is a brand new diversion for this most restless of musicians.

Jenkins was invited to perform at the Americana Music Association UK’s annual shindig this year, on the back of solo albums, ‘Trains’ and ‘Window Shopping In Nashville’, but you won’t hear any pedal steel or country fiddle on ‘Day After Day’. The aforementioned title track (video below) shoots for Springsteen-esque drama, whilst the reggae lilt of ‘Why?’ will surprise a few, but the critically-acclaimed (the late, great John Peel was a fan) songwriter remains true throughout to his enthusiasm for considered melodies and concise lyrics.

Jenkins’ Paul McCartney obsession rears its head across the five tracks, with the likes of gentle strummer ‘The Simple Things’ and mid-paced rocker ‘Luxury Stains Everything It Touches’ (“she looked out of the window and realised she was bored”) offering bright and breezy tunes mixed with observational lyrics – the latter delivered in a Scouse broga Michael Head would be proud of. Closing track ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ might be the best thing on offer here, as the singer plays to his strengths and whispers tunefully over a bed of beautiful sounding acoustic guitars. You’re left with the image of one of those sensitive singer/songwriters we’re always reading about – but that’s only half the story, as Liverpool-born, Meols-based Jenkins tells me he’s also halfway through the recording of a new album with The James Street Band, the live group he played Folk On The Dock and the Smithdown Road Festival with recently.

Having already impressed the esteemed songwriting likes of Chris Difford (Squeeze) and Beth Nielsen Chapman with his solo prowess, the upcoming band record has a lot to live up to. For now, though, the ‘Day After Day’ EP is a considered snapshot of a prolific artist once again on the cusp of change.