A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Brandon Jenkins “Through the Fire” (Smith Entertainment)
Red dirt singer-songwriter Brandon Jenkins reaffirms his reputation as a say-anything sort of guy on “Through the Fire.”
The Tulsa native penned all 12 tracks on his 11th album, which he co-produced with Dave Percefull and recorded at Yellow Dog Studios in his adopted hometown of Austin, Texas.
The guitar-wielding scribe frankly sings of love, sex and social injustice on his follow-up to 2011’s “Under the Sun.” “Through the Fire” often finds Jenkins in a contemplative mood, particularly on the title track, a harmonica-punctuated survivor’s ode that opens the album. With the twangy cautionary tale “Dance with the Devil,” he warns that when you waltz with Satan, “he don’t change/you change.”
Jenkins proves he can still rock with the best of the red dirt guys, particularly on the boot-stomper “Horsemen Are Coming,” which sets an appropriately ominous tone for the prettier-than-it-ought-to-be lament “Oh What Times We Live In.”
While mainstream country artists are scoring hits with clichéd anthems extolling the virtues of rural living, his sobering blues-rocker “Burn Down the Roadhouse” tells the vivid tale of a small town crumbling into a ghost town. He also amps up the blues-rock with the sexy come-on “Leave the Lights On,” with Steve Littleton’s keyboard grooves setting the mood.
The singer-songwriter pours his heart into what may well be his first piano ballad, the lovely “In Time,” which features Jenkins on the keys, Brian Standefer on cello and orchestration by Percefull. Jenkins again stretches musically on the plaintive torch song “Going Down to New Orleans,” with Matt Meli’s Minimoog synthesizer giving an even moodier vibe.
But the album’s sonic highlight, the eight-minute instrumental jam “Ridgemont Street,” is an appealingly rough-hewn showcase for the power trio of Jenkins on guitar, Tommy Munter on bass and Phil Hook on drums.
Jenkins will return to his home state Saturday to play the Red Dirt Mardi Gras at the Arbuckle Ballroom in Davis. For tickets and information, go to www.stubwire.com.
He also will play Feb. 23 at the Wormy Dog Saloon in Bricktown. For tickets and information, go to www.wormydog.com.