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Billy Jenkins

SadTimes.co.uk ~ Shot Clean Through With The Blues

Review by Billy Sheppard

You can dye your hair white, you can wear a white shirt out your pants and a vintage thin tie, and learn to fake the mad ass punk preacher of an attitude, but you can't play your guitar like Billy Jenkins, so stick with the hipster outfit and slug through your chord charts, because Jenkins and Blues Collective will break you heart.

SadTimes.co.uk is a necessary response to the wasteland of that same new thing in hard times with no heroes.  Billy and the Blues Collective are well schooled and loaded for bear with a album of original tribute songs to neglected, half-forgotten masters Cliff Richard, John Lee Hooker, Duke Ellington, and Django Reinhardt and the very notion of music worth a fanatic response.  Billy has lectured at the Royal Academy of Music but he looks like Elmer Gantry on speed balls and plays the blues with more attitude than Sid Vicious and more skill than all those unworthy guitar gods you've been worshiping. 

He'll make you laugh.  He'll make you cry.  He'll make you feel religious.  Billy Jenkins says it best:  "Now Blues has a defined musical form, mostly based on the root, fourth and fifth note of the Western scale and of course the twelve bar. It is a universal blueprint, a safety net for the listener. They know what's roughly going to happen next. And therefore, with this pattern in place, the musician can go completely nuts, go ape, go primitive. Talk in tongues, become possessed..."

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.


Track by Track Review
Badlands
Jenkins turns up the echoplex now and again on this dark Badlands ballad, but pretty much shoots out the lights and breaks a few shop windows with his six string attack on the broken marketplace of the current street scene.  "Badlands - Shuttered shops that never close - Badlands Where a facial is a broken nose - Graffiti on the wall - Improves the boarded shopping mall - Badlands - Just down the road from you." Bolton bangs out a warning bell under all the explosive Jenkins blues, and Dylan ties his fiddle with a bow to the assault weapon six string. There's beauty in the devastation of the broken shopping mall, and Billy burns it down with pure music. Jenkin's singing voice is a mischievous thing, that sounds like a dark angel after a dying fall.
Cliff Richard Spoke To Me
"Cliff Richard Spoke To Me" is a blues with a sweet tone, that builds into a fanatic intensity that hides the deepest respect for a "top pop sensation" under a blanket of sycophantic insanity. This cut swings slow like Count Basie's band, with all the intensity of a tweaked out Alvin Lee goin' home with Ten Years After. The violin is acoustic with a country blues fiberglass bow set on stun, and a gliss of bliss on a manic weekend. Billy has the haphazard sound of a cat on the piano keys, if the feline studied from Cecil Taylor and intends every cluster he claws.
Rest On My Bed
"Rest On My Bed" begins with an insistent march time, interrupted with a hint of guitar. The violin breaks in with a little two string country touch of restrained melody. "Rain comes down - cold wind blows - no reason to go out - lying still - on my own - full of fear and doubt - ain't got dressed - ain't had a shave - life's my mistress - I'm her slave - there ain't nothing I can do - I'm - resting on my bed of blues." Those lyrics don't suck at all. And Jenkins can't be restrained for long. That "bet you don't think I intend all these notes" assault guitar technique pops the cherry on a lazy day, and Dylan Bates on violin keeps up an accelerating country stomp with a little horror movie special effect done without an electronic box worth mentioning.
sadtimes.co.uk
"Sadtimes.co.uk" is that slow deliberate down home sparsely adorned blues you've been hoping for, for a bad day even when it is not night and it is not raining. The lyrics: "Sadness sadness sadness - sad times is my life - been together so many years - sad times became my wife - since the first night of our honeymoon - we've been alone together in the gloom - sadness sadness sadness - sad times is my life - you hear what I say - I'm on - sadtimes.co.uk [pronounced "sadtimes dot co DOT you kay]" The brushes take the drumkit, a sweet Gibson guitar tone replaces the "Vlad the Impaler" quality heard elsewhere, Mr. Bolton switches to a tasteful Freddie Green chunk-a-chunk on the rhythm guitar, and that fiddle takes a dying fall on an acoustic diving board, for the sound of tough luck and "trouble, trouble, trouble like you ain't never seen." - sweet!
I'm Happy
"I'm Happy" wakes up a sleeping Django Reinhardt shuffle still shaking off the sand man. This is a lazy blues romp with gratitude that Jenkins don't need the HRT. Now that could mean the Hampton Roads Transit, but it might be Hormone Replacement Therapy, truth be told. All that "Happy as can be!" falls a little flat, but at least Jenkins is frisky enough he don't need any "ecstacy" or "LSD." His sponsor will be happy to hear that! The clincher: "I'm so happy I could cry. I'm so happy I could die."
The Duke and Me
"The Duke and Me" starts with a "doo wah doo wah doo wah ditty ditty" of a beat, at a relaxed tempo. "Cool jazz" is on the juke, and Billy's got "the Duke and me and Harry Carney - And I just can't get enough." Alright, he's having a spacey jazzy day where "Mary Jane is smokin'" but he "ain't got no pop music - none of the children's stuff." (Harry Carney, by the way, is credited with making the baritone-saxophone a "necessary" instrument for a big band. Look him up!) Once again Billy seems to be working out the solos for the first time, in fits and starts, but that isn't the truth. Try it for yourself. He doesn't miss a note, just pretending not to know, or not to care, but he's one cagey dude on that thing. A tip of the hat to the Richard Bolton on the rhythm thing for holding down the six string groove. This thing swings.
I Love Your Smell
"I Love Your Smell" is the scent of a woman set to a slick walking blues. "I Love Your Smell - Makes me well - I never miss - A little sniff - When you're near - When you're near." The twang bar gets a workout and Jenkins goes rhythm after the usual attack guitar assault. The fiddle makes brief side comments, and Bolton on rhythm has found his wah wah peddle for the occasion. There's enough "guitar falling down the stairs" intensity to hide the fact that every damn note he plays is intentional. Gosh, don't you smell nice! I think maybe Jenkin's eyesight is fading with the old age. You have to use the senses you have left.
Like John Lee Said
"Like John Lee Said" breaks in a frightening pace with impressive drumkit rolls and accents beating the devil out of the damn thing. The pace here might be Alvin Lee, but my best guess is John Lee Hooker. The big surprise here is a children's shout chorus from the local middle school. Jenkins has a "take no prisoners" attitude even at this double time pace. Okay, it's a John Lee Hooker thing for sure. How do I know? It's in the lyrics! Another tribute song. I'm beginning to think this madman Jenkins gives more respect than anybody, and damn straight gets less than he deserves.
 
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