Tom Jenkins “Meadow – Part 1”

Xtra Mile Recordings, 2023

Raw folk from the Welsh valleys on Jenkins’ stripped-back latest.

Tom Jenkins, Meadow Part 1 album artwork‘Meadow – Part 1’ is the first instalment of Tom Jenkins’ new stripped-back album. Following two previous “full-band, full-production” albums, Jenkins decided to record some tracks in a more minimalist fashion, using a single microphone and foregrounding lone acoustic guitar and his airy, ethereal vocals. Recorded in a barn on the South Wales sheep farm where Jenkins works, the aim was to capture the rawness and emotional spark of live takes, infused with the essence of the rural surroundings and valley’s weather.

Across five tracks, spanning just 12 minutes, Jenkins largely achieves his aim, delivering brief yet incisive folk-inflected ruminations; despite the indisputably modern edge to some of the lyrics and melodies, the brevity and bareness of the songs recalls more traditional folk music, creating potent capsule-tales of loss, longing and uncertainty.

Opener ‘Meadow’ offers a poetic vignette of a particular moment in time and in a relationship – the temporal vagueness makes it unclear whether it is addressed to a past or current companion, which adds a certain intrigue. The track consists of fingerpicked acoustic guitar, Jenkins’ voice and a brief backing vocal accompaniment in the second verse; the alternation between major and minor creates a bittersweet mood and hems in the edges of the song, mirroring the lyrics’ introspective nature.

Is There A Next One?’ follows, a fuller track, with drums, bass, electric guitar and harmonica as well as the staple arpeggiated acoustic fingerpicking. The perky beat and repetitive lyrics mimic the spiralling and piling up of thoughts, creating a slightly disorienting mood. The track seems to be a farewell, as well as an address to, or summoning of, the future; the lyric “Hold you in the meadow, never gonna let you go” refers back to the opening track, perhaps suggesting an unhappy ending to that relationship, with only memories remaining. The gently plaintive electric guitar whines toward the end of the track conjure a sense of loneliness and evoke clouds skirting the crests of the valleys, moving through and passing by – both a melancholy and comforting image.

The guitar pattern on ‘I Don’t Know’ has a hint of Smoke Ring for My Halo-era Kurt Vile, with lyrics that draw from the landscape and travel to survey and assess the contours of a past relationship. ‘A Face In A Cloud’ is a subtly unsettling lament, marked by interesting key changes and dreamlike imagery: “Like a face in a cloud, of a dead man that knew before/ Like a rose with no thorns/ Defenceless, beauty to be torn”; there are also references to an infectious malaise or angst, “the west” – the narrator’s birthplace, as well as poisoned land, drawing parallels between depression, unhealthy thoughts and habits, ageing and the destruction of the land.

By the time we reach closer ‘Drover’, the album’s thematic furrow is well defined, and Jenkins further explores loneliness, admits his self-destructive tendencies and considers how to forge a brighter future through bettering himself and moving on from losses. Drawing heavily on his sheep-farming trade, Jenkins deftly evokes the sense of a partnership growing apart: “Single file on a country mile, we leave our fate unspoken/ Follow skies onto pastures new, I’m a drover now, my thoughts are where I carry you”.

Though brief, ‘Meadow – Part 1’ is a thoughtful and effective expression of loss, hope and uncertainty. The bareness of the arrangements allows Jenkins to reveal subtle and candid emotion through his vocals and guitar playing, creating music informed and shaped by the valleys where it was written and recorded.


About Joe Graham 14 Articles
New Cross based fan of americana, country, folk and folk rock music. Besides that, I enjoy exploring the city on runs and walks, finding pubs and gig venues, playing guitar and watching some football every now and again.
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