The wisdom and story telling of artist and songwriter John Jenkins returns this year with the release of his new, double CD release Window Shopping in Nashville. The collection presents 21 brand new songs and features a vast number of musicians and vocalists who bring about a whole new sense of community within the sound, as well as each adding their own touch of character and flair to the various tracks.
John Jenkins’ songwriting and sentiment is at the heart of every recording, so the warmth and realness you got with the Trains album shines brightly once again. However, with this release there’s a definite change in the presentation of the sound. Beginning with Silhouettes, the back and forth between Jenkins’ own leading vocal and that of Megan-Louise adds a playful twist. Megan-Louise has a beautifully unique voice, and the contrast in terms of tone and performance style with Jenkins’ own performance adds a certain level of brightness and variety to the song.
As the collection plays out the sound has the professional finish of any solid, go-to country or folk-rock collection. The music is loyal to the heart of its writing, so the overall vibe is consistently calming and easy to embrace. Bitter Harvest portrays the country twang alongside of a string of delicate and reflective lyrics, well placed as the follow-up to the opener. Quicksand comes as a similarly gentle and melodic third track, and from here on in the energy gets smoother, more familiar, and perhaps more and more valuable for fans of real music; music from the heart, crafted with care and attention – a reliable means of escapism.
John Jenkins’ storytelling has always been the thing that strikes with the greatest impact about his music. Grounded in The Mire is a big moment, one that reignites this as an ingrained fact about the artist. Opening with I was kidnapped when I was three, and continuing with various unpredictable snippets of life experience, always leading up to what is a superb chorus section with a stunning melody and a uniquely memorable hook line – this song marks the move from good to great, in my opinion.
Musically this project offers a hell of a lot to enjoy. The country softness evolves into an addictive blues-rock rhythm with Follow Your Heart. The instrumentation is exciting and flawlessly performed, something that goes without saying throughout this release. The Unopened Letter presents something entirely different, the emotional tenderness of the strings and the piano set the scene wonderfully for what is a deeply thoughtful song. I Was Looking For You brings the shuffle-like rhythm back, and offers up yet another narrative that has you following each line with unwavering interest.
As mentioned, there’s so much to appreciate here, the length of the collection goes somewhat unnoticed as there’s a strong sense of variety between songs; varying instrumental moments, varying vocals parts, relentlessly enjoyable melodies, and always those powerful and engaging tales are at the core of the expression. Too Much Drinking On a Sunday closes down the first half of the project with an almighty hit of carefree joy and unquestionable British-ness.
Progressing through the latter half of the album, the sound evolves and in a way that’s impossible to predict. River East River West has a notably different sound in itself, the vocal performance is softer, almost whispered, and there’s a certain darkness that comes as a welcome change in direction. This one is a personal highlight actually, the descending melody and the poetry work well together in creating a reflective, provocative soundscape. A House Of Cards follows on beautifully and marks a distinctly striking moment within the project.
Miss Red Shoes is a superbly energetic bit of classic rock and roll that brightens up those melancholy corners just before they affect you too intensely. So Far Away settles somewhere between the two extremes and brings back that individuality and that narrative that compels and comforts. One Fine Day arrives with an overwhelming feeling of positive change and optimism, though it’s short-lived in a way, as Don’t Make Me Stay focuses more on a disagreement; differing opinions that just don’t seem able to gel, and the all-encompassing call of the bottle. This song has a great hook melody that lingers after listening. Same Thing Every Night actually feels like something of a sequel, the music bursts into a rhythmic country-rock vibe, the storytelling continues to address the complicated nature of opposing perspectives.
Red Dust Road is a beautiful song, the openness and sense of humanity about the lyrics is magnified by the hopeful sound of the melody and the surrounding instrumentation – the style of which is sublime, the riffs have so much prowess and character. The feeling of being out in the depths of America, Nashville perhaps (probably), is created early on with those Wild West, country-rock and folk-rock flickers of freedom. It Hurts Too Much (When I’m With You) is no exception.
The adventure comes to a fitting finish with A Night On The Town – The Long Walk Home. Sometimes the thrill of the escapade reaches such heights that only a long walk home, to think, to breathe, to find your bed, will soothe its after-ache. The music has the gentle warmth of the end of a chapter, the lyrics are loaded with those thoughts that come to us all; the choices we made, the regrets we may have, the people we met, the ones we lost. It’s a romantic and easy going piece of music that plays out for almost seven minutes and leaves you with an uplifting feeling of possibility.
This project is jam-packed with stories and melodies and musical beauty. You’ll wonder about the world, you’ll wonder about your own journey, and you’ll wonder who Louise is. More than worth a download.