loss is Australia's gain" say the notes in this self funded album by Mentone
based Jenkins, a share croppers son born in Bottleneck Arkansas. Like the
great bluesman Albert King, he plays left handed , with the strings in reverse
order; bass, at the bottom and treble at the top, twelve songs, bookended
by Arkansas parts two and one (in that order), suggest Jenkins is a strong
writer, with sparse backing by Peter Clifford and John Comiola (percussion)
and Peter Bowman on Bass, guitar, keyboards and vocals, Jenkins has fired
Melbourne Age Green Guide
so often a CD comes along that knocks your socks off. A self-financed solo
debut by dynamic guitarist/singer Bo Jenikns, Road hooks you and never lets
go, from the first to last cascades of notes on Arkansas Toothpick parts 2
and I respectively .The latter tracks are a picking tour de force reminiscent
of Leo Kotte’s "machine-gun' attack. It's impossible to categories Jenkins,
an Arkansas left-hander - a Deep Southpaw, you might say - with Native American,
ancestry and, Delta blues in his blood. Bo settled down in Melbourne a few
years ago and formed the Southern Electric Blues Band, passing on his virtuoso
guitar technique in lessons and seminars. Country and blues are his but staples,
but it is dangerous to pin labels. That muscular sound pervades all genres
with equal force, from the country ballad A Stand By Your Man, Girl, with
its blues licks, to the tender, pop accented Vanda (Stay yourself )- dedicated
to his Australian wife - and the spurred and booted instrumental bravado of
Morna's Got A Switch, Vanda tells me her favorite track is the homesick, slide-laced
Let My Eyes See Arkansas ballad. I agree, but pyrotechnic blues-rockers such
as Since My Woman Done Gone are equally impressive.
Mike Hotz (Blues Presenter)
Radio Adelaide 531AM
COAST FM 88.5FM
Skin It Back
Bo Jenkins play live over a year ago, and listening to his first Australian
release, “Razorback Road”, I’ve been conscious of how good a guitar player this
southpaw Arkansas-born man is, but I was astonished by several aspects of his
newest recording, “Skin It Back”. His guitar techniques are impeccable, as one
would expect from a musician with his credentials. In fact I would go so far
as to rate Bo as one of the top pickers in the country. But it’s the potency
of his vocals as he powers his way through the mostly original set on this album,
that sets this album apart from other recent Australian releases.
Bo has also been canny enough to enlist the services of
some top-notch players to back him. An interesting point to the album
is that Bo has used two different rhythm sections. Paul O’Brien (drums) &
John Lebesis (bass) work very well together on four tunes, while Gary Young
(drums) & Warwick Thomas (bass) are equally as solid on a couple. Thomas
plays bass on another couple where Bo Jenkins himself provides the percussion
via his stomp-box. Legendary Chris Wilson blows his mighty harp on four numbers,
and Marion Turner gets a chance to show-off her harmonica prowess on “Tequila
Worm Blues”. Ms Turner also handles some very impressive back-up vocals in the
company of Chris DeRoche.
But the undisputed star of this album is Bo Jenkins. Sensational
guitar work, some brilliant ‘slide’, and as I’ve already stated, an extremely
powerful vocal performance throughout
The album opens with a homesick Jenkins singing about
the virtues of the Mississippi delta in, “Get Back To The Delta”, where Bo was
born and raised, and where his heart still lies. He kicks into “Train Train”
next, an up tempo tune with a great little lead solo, and harp man Peter Harper
is on fire. Pure Southern style music this, and nicely done.
The stylish instrumental, “Joe” follows, proving Bo takes
a backward step to no one with a ‘slide’ on his hand. When asked about the tune’s
title, Bo stated, “The good thing about an instrumental is that I can call it
any damned thing I want”. The hard driving, “50 Year Guarantee”. A humorous
tune about marriage licenses. Adding to the humour are some of Bo’s corny guitar
licks, and ain’t it grand. Then it’s time for the album’s high point for me,
the beautiful, “Who’s To Blame”. More in a country style this one, but it is
one of the best damned tunes I’ve heard in some time. A song of contentious
issues, with the magnificent vocals of DeBoche and Turner backing Mr. Jenkins.
Haunting stuff this, with it’s laid-back sax work provided by John Bisignano,
and the understated piano of Jim Sifonios. (Saw Bo do this live, unaccompanied,
brilliant). “Tequila Worm Blues” is next, with acoustic guitar and great harp.
A song about swallowing the worm bobbing around in the tequila, something I’ve
done a time or two. Move on to, “Jump Back Baby”, a country blues reminding
me for a moment of Terry & McGhee without Terry’s whoops and hollers. Wilson’s
harp is in complete accord with Bo’s guitar and stomp box, he never overplays
and his sense of timing is superb. “Play Them Games” is another hard driving
electric blues tune, and this is the one that blew me away on first listen vocally.
Bo takes his voice right to the very limit on this album, sometimes straying
over the line, but purposely so, with great phraseology, this man can sing folks,
take it from me. And the more I listen to tunes such as “Whiskey Drinkin’ Woman”,
the more I get into what this cat’s doing Bo and the band settle
into a groove and get the job done. Nothing fancy, or complicated, just good
strong songs, from a man who simply knows what he’s doing. Wait until you hear
Bo’s take on Leadbelly’s “Midnight Special”. Once again, vocal chords stretched
to the max, mightily so, but I could listen to this all damn day. Sounds like
it was a lot of fun to record.
The CD’s closer is another Jenkins instrumental, the wonderful
“Misty’s Sleeping”. The fingerpicking on this one is so delicate and fragile,
and clean as a whistle and Bo, yes you got it.
Southern style rock meets Blues meets New-Age Country;
“Skin It Back” is one helluva CD. No music lover can afford to disregard this
album. It’s feel-good material mostly, and I reckon there are a few around who
could learn a lot from this humble man from Arkansas.
Review by Larry Schwartz
CD SKIN IT BACK
by Bo Jenkins
I got it.” Jenkins says at the end of the exquisite acoustic guitar solo on
Misty's Sleeping, the last of 12 tracks on this fine follow-up to his critically
acclaimed1998 debut Razorback Road. And got it he certainly has. The
left-hander, who hails from Bottleneck, Arkansas, has come up with yet another
compelling set of blues-inflected southern rock, including three instrumentals.
Leadbelly’s Midnight Special is one of just two songs that is not self-penned.
Backed by an able mix of musicians including Chris Wilson, who plays harmonica
on four tracks, Jenkins shows depth and diversity, ranging from electric to
acoustic steel and dobro (on a track called Jump Back Baby,” strings in reverse
order (in the manner of the late great Albert King), and with strong vocals
that make you wonder why he has not been snapped up by a major label.