If You Can’t Forgive, You Can’t Love
Extremely Thoughtful and Well Constructed Songs that Will Intrigue and Captivate.
We liked Liverpudlian, John Jenkins ‘ last album GROWING OLD (Songs From the Porch) so much we said that it was “Destined to Linger Long in The Memory” and we meant it and it has.
Jump forward two years and a whole a pandemic later and the follow up; follows a similar if ‘edgier’ path on the Americana/Folk highway.
The opening track A Stranger to Your Heart instantly introduces us to the new direction with a powerful tale of love of the unrequited guitar work and some frightening violin playing that reminded me of the extraordinary playing by Graeme Smith many years ago in String Driven Thing.
Before you have the chance to catch your breath, Jenkins drops the mini-musical Soap Opera, Is That What They Say on us. If you take Jenkins’ singing away from the mix it will still be a very poignant story anyway; but again the instrumentation here, with the introduction of a razor sharp harmonica alongside that impressive violin take this song into a whole new dimension.
I had drinks with a friend last week who has began immersing himself in all things Dylan again; because; “There’s no new music around these days that interests me.“
We’ve had this conversation before and I know it’s fruitless to argue; so changed the subject and I’m sure you know someone similar.
Now; I’m not for one moment saying John Jenkins is the ‘new Bob Dylan’ … he’s not; but this album and songs like Cracks or the fabulous Strangers On a Train and latterly Desert Hearts should, in many ways intrigue the average Bob Dylan fan or at least the average singer-songwriter fan. Extremely thoughtful and constructed songs that again take Folk Music into the Americana time zone via the Mersey Tunnel.
For the second time in as many years I’ve been very impressed with not just John Jenkins’ songwriting; but his singing too; a mellow yet deep voice that adds an extra lustre to The End of Summer and the Gospel tinged The Other Side of Sadness; which wouldn’t sound half as passionate if not sung with that slight Liverpool ‘twang.’
If only John had been born and raised in North America the broadsheets and radio shows would be fawning all over him when they heard Moon and June or the punchy sing-along When The Morning Comes too.
For once this is an album from a singer-songwriter that you can enjoy equally as well in the car or doing the ironing on a Sunday night; as for once someone in that ouvre isn’t afraid of a melody and a chorus.
Which all brings me to two stand out songs that are vying for the accolade of RMHQ Favourite Song.
The deceptively gentle Last Train From Baltimore which has all the hallmarks of a Classic American Folk Song by Paul Simon or Guy Clark; both completely different I know … but when you hear this song you will understand where I’m coming from.
Living Someone Else’s Life, on the other hand, is a desperately complex story sung over a delightfully delicate acoustic guitar that will will take time to unfurl and leave you sighing …. “Oooooohhhh Oh!”
I desperately don’t want to jeep John Jenkins’ talents to myself like some ‘secret love;’ he’s far too good for that …. treat yourself to something new from someone you’ve never heard of.
You can thank me later.
Released August 6th 2022
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The 13-track album from Liverpudlian singer-songwriter John Jenkins is packed with powerful tracks. Jenkins vocals, as soft and smooth as caramel, deliver well written lyrics addressing regret and broken dreams. Though it might sound sad, there is plenty to smile about as the record transports you through these emotions, from the gentle production to the stories and characters Jenkins creates.
The imagery is clear on the tragic ‘The Last Train From Baltimore,’ but Jenkins voice is soothing as he reflects on these events. A sonic shift occurs on ‘The Wrong Side of Sadness’ as a more rousing production ensues. He is joined by Alison Benson on ‘Strangers on a Train’, the production is stripped back giving the pairs delicate vocals room to deliver their message.
‘If You Can’t Forgive, You Can’t Love’ is a fantastic record that, for all it’s regret and sorrow, delivers an important message of forgiveness and freedom. Jenkins proves to be one to watch with both his vocals and songwriting on point for this album.
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
To apologise is hard, to forgive is challenging, and yet we are urged from early in life to see forgiveness as a way of promoting love for one’s self, to be able to move on from the perceived sleight, the moment of indiscretion, of the falling foul to all that makes us human; yet forgiving seems to be the hardest emotion to conquer, it would seem for many the easier option is make life intolerable for someone, to put them down, to find ways in which to destroy another human being just because they made a mistake.
If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love, not necessarily the action of regaining the adoration of another, but in the response to your own soul, and it is the soul that is the most important factor to consider when weighing up to forgive, (maybe not even forgetting) or going down the endless cycle of repeating recriminations. It is a cycle that leads to destruction, but also one that can add melody and beauty to the heavy heart encountered in the melancholic and the lament, and one so vibrantly captured in sheer expression by John Jenkins in his incredibly passionate and vibrantly elegiac album, If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love.
To know John Jenkins is to love him, and safe in the knowledge that there is nothing to forgive as he reveals the heart on his sleeve and shows his mind to be open, precise and modest as he has ever been, and what is perhaps arguably his finest set of songs to date, the truth of the moment becomes clear, that whilst separately the songs could be seen as hugely important, it is when they are placed together that they become a tonic, a restorative, a piece of art that understands that sadness is not to be shunned, but accepted as a monument to our emotional resonance and how we bring ourselves back into the light.
The album’s tracks, of which several have made their way gloriously into the minds of the listener during the course of the year so far, Kathleen, The Last Train From Baltimore, The Wrong Side Of Sadness, Strangers On A Train, Living Someone Else’s Life, When The Morning Comes and Desert Hearts, are complimented by the song Is That What They Say, a dramatic song of lost opportunityand regret, punctuated by the belief of how we hope those who brought us into the world would hopefully see us at our best, would still love us.
With the award-winning Rob Vincent, Amy Chalmers, Dave Orford, Lee Shone and Alison Benson all weaving their own sense of magic and occasion into every sweet moment that the album provides, If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love, becomes the centre-piece into which the emotions of the listener become wonderfully entangled with that of the artist; like being captivated and admitting to being awe-struck in front of a painting by Constable, Turner or Maclise, or feeling your heart pushed to a new boundary of belief by the poetry of Keats or Anne Askew, so John Jenkins has plainly, undoubtedly, presented his own art with exceptional understanding. Outstanding!
John Jenkins releases If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love via Fretsore Records on August 6th.
Ian D. Hall
Artist – John Jenkins
Album – If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love
Released – 6th August 2021
Reviewer – Helen Maw, Liverpool Acoustic
Rating – 5/5
If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love is the stunning new album from Liverpool singer
songwriter John Jenkins. The album, a collection of warm, emotive and uplifting tracks is a
true slice of Americana on the Mersey.
Recorded at Crosstown Studios in Liverpool, John has taken what has been a deeply
challenging and disruptive period for many musicians and artists and used it to create and
co-produce this album, his first since signing to Fretstore Records. Jenkins is well
established as one of the most prolific songwriters on Merseyside and combined with some
of the best musicians and producers the city has to offer, he has created something truly
The album sets a scene of a road trip, each song threading together a soundscape of
different emotions and stories. Jenkins takes us on a sonic journey with songs that capture
your imagination and transport you to the dusty roads of Route 66, telling tales of regret, love
and everything in between.
There are some real stand out tracks on this album. The opening song A Stranger To Your
Heart begins with a sense of vulnerability. Jenkins comes out into the open with a gentle
tone in his voice, his feelings raw and on the surface. The stunning fiddle solo brings a
beautiful change to the track and would not sound out of place in an old western bar.
Strangers On A Train is the breathtaking duet featured on the album. The track, co-written
by Jenkins and Liverpool musician Alison Benson is a heartbreaking ballad of love lost and
a stark reminder of the cruelness of the passage of time. The blending of John and Alison’s
voices creates a haunting track which stays with you long after you have listened to it.
Desert Hearts was released as a single earlier in the year. It’s a fantastic closing track, with
swelling guitars and percussion, uplifting brass and beautiful vocals. Jenkins’ voice is so full
of joy and soars perfectly over the top of the music. It’s a song that looks ahead to the future
and for me, provides the perfect driving off into the sunset feel. The arrangement for the
track is brilliant, with a hearty mix of rock guitar and classical strings. It truly is a song that
covers all bases and is sure to be one to remember.
This is a stellar album from Jenkins, his music can be listened to and appreciated by people
of all ages. His influences of Americana and Country are clear to see and there is no doubt
that this album is a labour of love. With songs that break your heart and pull you back
together all in one, John Jenkins is definitely one to watch and I cannot wait to see what he
© 2021 Liverpool Acoustichttps://liverpoolacoustic.co.uk/2021/08/album-review-john-jenkins-if-you-cant-forgive-you-cant-love/