When I Was In My Room (charlesjenkins.bandcamp.com)
It is true I would listen to Charles Jenkins sing about anything, would recommend one of his songs – any of his songs – to those asking me for personal favourites in whatever circumstance you find yourself. Want upbeat pop songs of massive hooks? Folk-ish wryness and some amusements? Tender songs of complex moods? Ultra-quiet records? He got ‘em, and they’re good.
Take Bless This Table from this album: a husky voice, like some aged but not too wearied bloke sitting on a chair in the sun, gives thanks for the little gifts of a life while a guitar traces the play of light across the yard. Or The Sun Is Always Drinking: a smile playing at the corners of his mouth much like the spry middle-aged guitar, playfully pitching sun, moon and earth as the kind of housemates with issues you could never quite solve but who you’d always love.
And to complete the set at the middle third of this record, Hear No Bell, See No Train: gentle river-flowing picked accompaniment, vocals almost conversational, images of a world that may have already slid by like the innocence lost and never regained.
(The only reason Jenkins doesn’t get played more at home is that for some reason my wife – who has so many other fabulous qualities, not least tolerance of never ending music – has a blind/sore spot about his voice in the same way she once ruled out songs sung by Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms and, always and forever, songs sung by Robert Zimmerman.)
So yes, I’m inclined to his way of writing. But still, this is such a lovely record. A perfect companion to Jenkins 2019 album, When I Was On The Moon both intimate, but never cloyingly so, collections of voice and guitar telling small, maybe inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, stories.
In fact, given most tracks don’t venture past two minutes, the two albums are between them one 50 minute package – a perfectly reasonable album length with a Get Happy-type track total - if someone were to reissue them in the future, or if you were to buy them from Bandcamp and make up your own set.
Either way these are songs for Sunday mornings in lockdown while you wait for the rest of the house to rise (while you wait for the sun to rise if you’re another insomniac) and you can turn your mind to nothing save the soft pleasures of the songs, or let them slide into your consciousness.
You can wonder about the story behind the absence in A Room I Can Call My Own (“I ain’t looking for no sea of rain, I ain’t looking for no ocean of storms/I’m just hoping to see you again, and I’m hoping you are safe and warm.”) and try to decide if the ache just behind the melody is tolerable or ever likely to end.
Maybe then picture the competing storytellers in The History Of Scotland: “She said, I once met Joe Strummer out the back of A Big Day Out/And later on we drank cans of vodka cranberry juice, dispensed from 44 gallon drums/On the lawn, no on the bank of the Royal Perth Yacht Club … Come home with me, she said, let me read you the history of Scotland/Underneath my mother’s very large quilt/Inside a small house, my father built.”
Or possibly you’ll just close your eyes, let the caressing guitar and Jenkins’ comforting voice send you back to sleep with the thought that is somewhere between wish and want (in a song that marks the point of inevitability in a broken relationship, no matter what the words say, but still you too want to believe) “I’ll see you in the stars tonight”.