Western Gold (5 Music)
In the last decade, Orange County-based country singer Gethen Jenkins has gone from casual jammer to solid honky tonk journeyman to full blown Outlaw crusader. With an impeccable pedigree — West Virgini- born, raised in Kentucky, Ohio and a remote Indian village on the banks of Alaska’s Yukon river, eight years active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan as a Marine — Jenkins is assuredly a most serious cat, and he’s made a name for himself nationwide, touring repeatedly across Texas and into the darkest heart of Nashville, where his new Western Gold album was perpetrated. As our own homegrown entrant in the Johnson-Stapleton-Jinks beardo bag, Jenkins’ sonorous baritone and evocative lyrical style qualify him as a significant force in California country (when the late Bard of Bakersfield, Red Simpson, heard Jenkins he immediately partnered up and brought him to fabled Oildale ‘tonk Trout’s for).
Jenkins’ self-propelled course has been consistently impressive; even as a low down bar band leader with the Freightshakers, he managed an impressively evocative sound, full of wide open spaces and soul but with this platter he swarms into one’s ear with a deeply resonant presence, one which big league producer Vance Powell tastefully supports and presents.
Jenkins has a big heart and a songwriters head with a decidedly complex psyche. On the single “Basket Case” he throws down a frank, rollicking examination of the Middle East war’s toll and trauma (“I walked out the gate/with a Section 8”) then turns around to deliver flawlessly crafted and delivered ballads (“Strength of a Woman”) that are impressively tender and well crafted, spanning the musical spectrum of legit country creativity with a natural poise.
For Jenkins, it’s the only way to fly — as he said a few years back “There’s no money in it, and we know that — the relationship between the listeners and the music is what I feed on.”