John Jenkins' latest musical offering sees him not only consolidating himself as one of Merseyside’s finest songwriters, but also that, like a fine single malt, he is maturing just nicely with age. 'Growing Old' presents us with twelve songs which see Jenkins muse about the life events and the effect the ageing process has on your environment, relationships and self. And as a result, he has successfully evoked - through musical alchemy - an atmosphere of melancholy, hope and benign perspective.
It has to be said that Jenkins is at his most successful when he creates an aural intimacy between himself and his listener, like he is sitting beside you, singing softly, to you and only you. It is at this moment that an emotional bond is created that transforms you to remember those life events that shaped all of us. Hence this scene is set with the opening composition 'Growing Old', and consolidated by the songs that come after - the Larkinesque 'Daniel White', 'Heartlands' and the achingly beautiful 'A Mother’s Devotion' This intimacy is, however, broken by Jenkins' duet with Siobhan Maher-Kennedy - 'This Mountain Between Us' - which although a good song, sadly manages to momentarily break this sense of intimacy Jenkins has created. This other voice breaks the spell….
The production is top notch, with very fine performances by the guest musicians. A
particular doffing of the cap should be directed towards the guest musicians, especially John Lawton for some majestic guitar work, Andy Connolly for his outstanding flute creativity and Amy Chalmers for her violin and string arrangements - her work on 'Jackson’s Farm', which evokes the ghost of Nick Drake collaborator Richard Kirkby, is simply superb.
'Growing Old' is an album which reveals different aspects of itself through repeated
listenings. It possesses a richness of life experience and emotion, which, given the title, you would expect. In his previous work Jenkins seems fascinated by the hope and potential that the wide-open spaces of America seems to offer. Yet he has the instinct to recognise that the authentic insights happen close to home, within us, and to those who.share the space around us. A rare skill indeed.
This is a collection of songs that succinctly encapsulate the feelings and experiences of a life lived. And through Jenkins shrewd and nuanced observations, he gives us an emotional blueprint to take on those challenges that the ageing process makes us all face. A real gem of an album.