Jeff Jensen has gone through a lot of trials and tribulations since his last release, the outstanding I’m Coming Home in 2009. His life has gone through major changes and not always the most pleasant. And that is all reflected in his newest CD Road Worn And Ragged; a very personal and revealing disc that takes him through heartbreak and frustration to new found happiness.
Jeff was quite successful in California, playing over 200 shows a year, competing three times in the International Blues Challenge, opening shows for BB King and co-founding the Santa Clarita Blues Society. But he moved to Portland, Oregon for love. And unfortunately things do not always turn out. Nearly broke and emotionally spent, Jeff moved to Memphis, Tennessee seeking new beginnings. Meeting up with harmonica ace Brandon Santini was life changing as all of sudden he was back on the road again with an in-demand band and he was able to let his emotions soar out on stage as any true artist is apt to do. After a couple years working with Santini, including the release of that band’s excellent This Time Another Year album, Jeff decided it was time to do his own recording once again.
Heading in to the famed Ardent Studios in Memphis, joined by the Brandon Santini Band including drummer James Cunningham, organ player Chris Stephenson and long-time friend and collaborator Bill Ruffino on bass, Jeff laid down six original numbers and four covers that opened his heart, baring his soul and his life for all to see. The musicianship is dynamic. Jeff absolutely soars with his guitar work consistently throughout the album.
Brandon Santini’s harmonica on the opening track “Brunette Woman” lays down the emotional roller coaster in this number about a failed relationship taking its toll, causing the story-teller to lose sleep, lose his hair, seeking solace in whiskey, beer and cigarettes. Victor Wainwright offers nice honky-tonk styled piano alongside Jeff’s acoustic guitar on “Good Bye Portland,” where he explains the depression that led him to Tennessee where his life took on a more positive direction. His soul-searching and heartbreak comes through to greater extent on tunes like “Raggedy Ann” and “River Runs Dry.” Even the take on Tom Waits’ “Heart Attack And Vine” fits the theme, as is his cover of the song “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You,” a song that has seen life in renditions by people like Nat King Cole, Kenny Burrell and Billie Holiday. The band is cooking with fire on the instrumental “Pepper,” letting everybody in the ensemble open up and Jeff really stretching out on guitar. At the end of it all, Jeff closes the disc out with “Thankful.” The song lets everybody know that despite all that his life has taken him through, he is still thankful for his friends and everything he has achieved and received in life.
Road Worn And Ragged is Jeff Jensen’s personal revelation. It bares his life experiences, something that makes for true blues music, with the pain and joy easily seen in his writing. It is an album that though not always happy with its themes, never lets the listener down with its delivery. Outstanding start to finish, musically and very thought-provoking. Jeff Jensen has shared himself openly. Emotional and sensational, Road Worn And Ragged is an intense and incredible recording.
Total Time: 44:41
Brunette Woman / Good Bye Portland / Heart Attack And Vine / Pepper / Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You / Little Red Rooster / Crosseyed Cat / Raggedy Ann / River Runs Dry / Thankful