Friday, 24 June 2016

Record Review - Jeff Jensen

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, June 24.

Jeff Jensen Band
Live – The River City Sessions
Swing Suit Records

Almost on a whim, US blues guitarist and producer Jeff Jensen ended up in Memphis a few years ago, one of those serendipitous life decisions which saw him soon afterwards absorbed into renowned harp player Brandon Santini’s band.

Jensen went out on his own after a while, releasing a couple of records with his trio (bassist Bill Ruffino and drummer Robinson Bridgeforth), bringing us to his latest release, a live cut recorded in December last year at Ardent Studios. And it’s a good one, showing just how emotive a player and solid a writer Jensen is.

Heavily based within the blues but not afraid to venture into soul and rock ‘n’ roll territory, The River City Sessions veers comfortably from flat out to velvet smooth, a collection of Jensen originals and covers from the likes of Tom Waits (Heart Attack & Vine), Dylan (All Along The Watchtower), and T-Bone Walker (T-Bone Shuffle). While more than proficient at wrangling all sorts from his guitar, Jensen is also very serious about his songwriting, and it shows in cuts like Ash & Bone and Empty Bottles. Another blues guitar slinger yes, but one with the songs to back it up.

Samuel J. Fell

Friday, 10 June 2016

Record Review - Ivor S.K.

Published in the Shortlist section of The Sydney Morning Herald, June 10.

Ivor S.K.
Delta Pines

The key to Ivor Simpson-Kennedy’s debut EP is simplicity. An acoustic blues album, it’s basically essential that it’s as stripped down as Delta Pines is. Initially a drummer but here solo with just an acoustic guitar, SK could have made the mistake of adding too much. However, these five songs benefit from the smart move to follow the less-is-more edict.

His drumming past gives these songs a strong rhythmic bent too, thanks in part to subtle stomp accompaniment, but also the fact his deep and smoky voice is used as a rhythm instrument in itself; strong and measured, it’s metronomic in its husky delivery.

Hailing from Sydney but having obviously spent a good deal of time in the American deep south, SK’s songs are imbued with a sense of the vast emptiness of the Mississippi delta, particularly the title track which is the standout, benefitting from a slow and repetitive guitar line, hand-claps towards the end as it, and the EP as a whole, fade out. While still a novice, particularly on the songwriting side of things, this is a strong start for the 24-year-old, who will no doubt improve as he ages.

Samuel J. Fell