Ben Jenkins is a young, fledgling songwriter who was recently transplanted to Madison from a small Louisiana town. This six-song EP is Jenkins’ second release and features full band arrangements while his first EP was acoustic.
Jenkins has a knack for arrangement and these are finely crafted pop songs; lighthearted in nature and sounding like the young troubadour that he is, documenting the world as he explores it. Jenkins’ voice is reminiscent of Paul Simon crossed with a bit of Justin Timberlake. He also lists John Mayer as an influence and there is ample evidence of that in his music as well shreds of Blink 182. Although his bio states that Jenkins “has a slight body odor which has been known to attract several types of sea bass and tends to rant on about pointless crap which has led to several restraining orders,” I’m guessing he’s a pretty mild, likeable and maybe even a little nerdy guy.
Something New is very well recorded and mixed, in fact, the sound is huge. It was recorded in Nashville by producer Jake Hartsfield in his home studio. Hartsfield is also a tour manager and ran front-of-house sound on tours with Styx, Heart, REO Speedwagon and the Sick Puppies. The recording group consists of similar young talent from the Nashville vicinity including drummer Caleb Crosby, guitarists Jeb Holmes and Forest Whitehead, bassist Calvin Webster with additional keys by Hartsfield. Jenkins plays acoustic guitar and sings.
The first five tracks are infectious pop songs with similar feels and melodies; a snappy ensemble sound with an acoustic guitar foundation. Ruminations on life and love with exquisitely played instrumentation. All these elements are encapsulated in the hooky opener “It’s Love.” The title track is edgier with the electric guitars out front. “Simple Design” is more restrained with very tasteful guitar flourishes.
The final track, “Gone,” is the best with a complex, orchestrated arrangement. This one also breaks the three-minute pop song restraints in anthemic fashion. The strings add power and dimension while the electric guitars chime and propel the song forward.
Jenkins’ predilection for crafting impressive pop music is evident and with the requisite amount of good breaks he could travel far. Time will tell how big a part Jenkins’ time in Madison will play out in his career. My money is on an eventual gravitation toward a larger music center, perhaps Nashville. Hopefully, he takes a few from here on his ride.