On The Banks Of The Mersey - John Jenkins Feature
Welcome to the first installment of my new blog On The Banks Of The Mersey, a blog which I hope will celebrate the best musicians and artists from the Liverpool and Merseyside area. I’ve been wanting to set up a blog for some time but could never really find the right subject to focus on, until I decided that I wanted a space to write about all of the inspiring local music I love, old and new!
My first feature is of the incredible new album from Liverpool’s John Jenkins…
Title: If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love
Artist: John Jenkins
Release Date: August 6th 2021
If You Can’t Forgive, You Can’t Love is the stunning new album from Liverpool singer songwriter John Jenkins and without a doubt, my favourite album of 2021 so far.
John Jenkins has been a fixture of the Liverpool music scene for some time having been in a variety of prominent bands in the 1980s including The Persuaders and Come In Tokio. Both groups gained fans in the 80s through their various gigs, including supporting the ever loved Liverpool band Echo and the Bunnymen. A resurgence in popularity online for John’s earlier work meant that he made his return to the music scene in 2015. Although, he never stopped writing during his time away and had a plethora of songs he was waiting to record. In 2017, Jenkins released a double album entitled Window Shopping In Nashville which was met with widespread critical acclaim, including praise from the Nashville Songwriters Association International. All of the songs Jenkins had been writing throughout the years were finally getting the chance to be properly recorded and released and he was able to show just why he is arguably one of the most talented and dedicated songwriters to come out of Liverpool. One line in particular, taken from the fifth track of the album, Moon and June, is so well crafted it needs a special shout out; 'Once "Mills and Boon" has become "High Noon" ' This line alone shows how talented a songwriter Jenkins really is.
I have only recently become familiar with John’s music having heard some of his past releases and hearing his name on the Liverpool music scene. Having taken on the task of writing a review of one of the albums standout singles Kathleen, a cover of the famous Townes Van Zandt track, I then made contact with John directly and he very kindly sent me his album to listen to before it was released.
From start to finish, the album is perfect. It encapsulates John as an artist, his genre and his songwriting talents so well and is a joy to listen to. The collection of warm, emotive and uplifting tracks is a true slice of Americana here on the River Mersey. The album is Jenkins first since signing to Fretsore Records.
I have listened to this album a number of times now from start to finish and each time, I feel as if I should be in an open top convertible travelling along route 66 having my own adventure, especially as one of the times I listened to it was on a car journey to Bury in my Dad’s Citroen! Each song, different yet still a part of a bigger story, threads together a soundscape of different emotions and tales. Jenkins takes us on his own journey, exploring love and loss, adventure and excitement, pouring his heart and soul into his music, while we as an audience sit quietly in awe, captivated by the stories he tells.
It’s very hard to pick out my favourite tracks on this album as they all work so well together, but there are some which are definite stand-outs. A Stranger To Your Heart, the opening track with a gentle acoustic guitar and Jenkins signature vocals drifting into the air. This opening, soft and emotive, makes you feel as if it is being performed in a quiet drinking hole, long after closing. Jenkins allows his voice to do the talking here, he sets the tone for the album straight away. As amazing as the full instrumentation is on his songs, he shows that all he needs is his voice and his stunning songwriting for you to get a true sense of who he is as an artist. That being said, when the full band instrumentation does kick in, it builds the excitement of the track, the powerful guitar riffs immediately stick in your head so you can hum along. The Strings are so beautiful in this track too, the unexpected solo from the wonderful Amy Chalmers adds a sense of drama to the track and sends it in another direction.
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 lament, with lyrics such as ‘Does she ever smile? A million stories behind sad eyes, but just one life’ breaks your heart, showing the fragility of happiness and how two strangers can share an experience, both feeling the same way but without knowing about the other. This is a great song from Jenkins and Benson, I really hope they write together again in the future!
Cracks, a tale of despair and forget, an all too familiar story of someone slipping away in life, their family and even the world giving up on them. This song really stuck with me the first time I heard it, the empathy for Hannah, the focus of the song as she watches the world around her change, was heartbreaking. The simple instrumentation of the track again shows that Jenkins' voice and lyrics are enough to convey the story, thus allowing you to focus on Hannah and her life as it slowly passes her by. The lyrics especially in this song are so powerful in an unexpected way, her disengaged parents growing apart from her and each other ‘She sees her Mother weeding flower beds, Father died from booze [...] they gave up on their little girl.’ The track is so powerful and is my favourite from the whole album.
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 just soars over the music. It looks ahead to the future and for me, provides the perfect driving off into the sunset moment. A celebration of life, of self experience and most importantly, music. This track has everything, gentle acoustic guitar with delicate vocals, moments of dance-along rock guitar riffs, a truly sumptuous Trumpet part, a clear nod to the Americana influences for the album and of course, Jenkins stellar storytelling abilities. This track, like the rest of the album, is a triumph and leaves you feeling content, knowing you have heard something truly special across the 13 tracks.
This is a fantastic 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. He has proven time and time again that he is a songwriting force and one of Liverpool’s most loved artists. He has honed his craft and spent his life writing songs and sharing them with the world. John Jenkins is currently on a UK tour and you can find tickets to his tour dates on his website. If you do anything with your day today, please go listen/stream/buy his album, you won’t regret it!
Thank you for reading the first installment of On The Banks Of The Mersey, I hope you enjoyed it and if you’re a Merseyside artist and would like to submit your work for a review, interview or feature, you can email submissions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org