Anyone who has ever witnessed a Jeff Jensen live show is fully aware of how much energy the guitarist expends as flies across the stage, seemingly lost in a world that only he can navigate. The rock-solid support he gets from Bill Ruffino on bass and Robinson Bridgeforth on drums serves as his musical life-line tethering him to the world of reality that the rest of us live in.
His new release finds Jensen in a calmer, more focused state of being that brings his many talents into sharper focus. At the start we get a dose of pure Memphis soul on an original “Make It Through,” Jensen’s soaring vocal riding the lush Wurlitzer organ wash courtesy of Victor Wainwright in addition to the bright horn accents from two members of the Bo-Keys, Kirk Smothers on saxophone and Marc Franklin on trumpet/flugelhorn. “Fall Apart” is another Jensen original with an expressive, yearning vocal wrapped around a cushion from the horns and a deft guitar solo. Reba Russell adds her vocal harmonies as Jensen takes us to church on a stirring version of “Going Home,” a traditional hymn that O.V. Wright also covered.
The arrangement of “Paper Walls” features Chris Stephenson on organ & a toy piano, giving the track an otherworldly sound. Jensen’s dramatic vocal conjures up visions of a world of chaos similar to the vistas of Tom Waits best work. “Ash and Bone” is a beautiful ballad enhanced by the breathtaking fiddle playing from Anne Harris. The band is far more aggressive on “Get Along,” with Jensen’s hard-rocking guitar in the spotlight before the horns join at the end to drive home an appeal for understanding. Drummer James Cunningham propels the swirling instrumental “Elephant Blue” with Stephenson taking the organ on a wild ride. Jensen follows up with fleet-fingered, fluid solo that builds to soul-wrenching climax.
Other highlights include the light-hearted vocal duet between Jensen & Wainwright on the Memphis Minnie classic, “What’s The Matter With the Mill,” with plenty of Wainwright’s two-fisted piano playing. Jensen switches to acoustic guitar and Eric Hughes joins in on harmonica to create the laidback feel on Amos Milburn’s “Bad Bad Whiskey”. Ruffino and Cunningham inject “Always Be In Love With You” with a swinging rhythm elicits strong solos from Jensen, Smothers, and Wainwright.
The disc includes a bonus track, “Empty Bottles,” another acoustic number with Gary Allegretto on harmonica accompanying Jensen through a frank assessment of the financial turmoil that has overwhelmed so many in recent years. It offers one final glimpse of Jeff Jensen’s maturing musical perspective.
The fact that Jensen can articulate his vision so well throughout the stylistic changes puts this one in the “do not miss” category!