The Bell in Walcot Street has been one of the key venues in Bath for more than 40 years. It restarted live music in July and tonight it hosted John Jenkins, on tour to promote his excellent album ‘If You Can’t Forgive You Can’t Love’. However, there were several support acts, selected from an online and “age positive” songwriting contest called Talent is Timeless which meant that Jenkins set was rather shorter than might have been ideal, but he took the opportunity to play some songs that don’t feature on the album.
With just mandolin and guitar player Pippa Murdie alongside him, the songs he did play from the recent album had a completely different quality. Having suffered at the hands of the rail network getting to Bath, ‘The Last Train From Baltimore’ was a surprise choice. But as one of the songs that highlights Jenkins’ rich voice best it was a welcome one though. His Townes Van Zandt T-shirt was a clue that he would be playing ‘Kathleen’. He did, and It was the highlight of the set. On the album it has a full band and strings arrangement, here the delicate simplicity of the song gave us a refreshing variation to the album version. ‘It’s Not That I’m Afraid of Your Husband’ is an as yet unrecorded tale of infidelity, not to be taken seriously. Pippa Murdie’s guitar playing on this was particularly good, and her singing and mandolin playing add another dimension to the songs.
Jenkins had spent the night asking the audience in the small crowded Back Bar to respect the artists by not talking during their sets. The only artist not treated to that consideration was Jenkins himself. One of the other acts had brought some supporters who, having seen their favourites decided to chat and take phone calls during Jenkins and Murdie’s songs. However, talking to Jenkins afterwards, he was pleased with the evening and happy to support the other artists in getting some exposure.
The most notable of those support acts was the extraordinary Trudi Brunskill. She offered up a mixture of songs drawing heavily on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ era, and between show quips courtesy of Julie Walters.
John Jenkins is one of those songwriters who works just off the radar but is the equal of many better known artists. In an acoustic folk setting his songs work as well as on his more Americana flavoured albums. In Pippa Murdie he has the ideal playing partner. If they play near you go and see them.