Jeff Jensen’s new album. Wisdom and Decay is a marvel. It seems impossible that it can be better than his previous albums, and yet I believe it is. The production, certainly, is the best yet. That, too, is done by Jensen. The work of his band, Bill Ruffino on bass and David Green on drums, is perfect and Jensen’s vocals are heartfelt and his guitar playing masterful. The band is joined by a number of special guests as well.
It all starts out with a Little Milton song, “Living ‘off the Love You Give,” a fast, cheerful tribute to a band favorite. Then comes a haunting original, “2000 Days,” about struggling with and overcoming addiction, emerging scarred yet triumphant. “Pretend Forevers” is an emotionally charged song about being in love and wanting it to last forever, yet knowing at some point it must end. It should touch the heart of anybody who loves anybody. The song features a string quartet and was recorded at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis, further emphasizing the band’s strong ties o hat city and its musical heritage.
“Good Woman Back Home” is a happy celebration of love with horns and great background vocals for emphasis. It is especially meaningful in light of Jensen’s recent marriage.
“Downtown” is a gritty song about the uglier side of any city, given more menace through Jeff’s distorted vocals. “Luck Is Gonna Change,” on the other hand, is a cheerful, gospel style song about misplaced optimism: making bad choices and expecting good results. Despite the clear message, it sounds like everyone in the studio had a great time on this one.
“What We Used to Be”is a political message, presented in a vaudeville-style number and using a comedic touch to say something true about where we stand today. It is followed by a fantastic version of one of my favorite Dylan songs, “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You.” Jeff sings it with great sincerity and only Dylan’s original version could equal it.
The album ends with “Something in the Water,” which lets Jensen shoe off his creativity and skill as a guitarist in a mellow style, and “The Water Jam,” which lets the whole band shine energetically.
Every album The Jeff Jensen Band has done so far has made an indelible mark on this listener and many others. This one already has, too. Everything ..the writing, singing, playing arranging and production.even the cover art, was done with skill and love, and that is why this album makes you feel so good. Is it his best? Maybe. Listen and see what you think.
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