Jeff Jensen and Brandon Santini
Endless Blues Records
By Rhetta Akamatsu
Before Tennessee Redemption, the album and the band, Jeff Jensen once played in Santini’s band. Then, Jensen broke off to start his own solo career and then to form the Jeff Jensen Band with bassist Bill Ruffino and drummer David Green. Both Santini and Jensen built successful careers, while their friendship and respect continued to flourish.
Then the time came when Santini and Jensen decided to join forces again. They kept Bill Ruffino and David Green, of course, as it is hard to think of another bassist and drummer so perfect for their kind of music, and with the addition of versatile guitarist Timo Arthur from Santini’s band, they had a dream team, as you will discover on this new album.
One of the best things about both Jensen and Santini is their ability to make a real connection with listeners, and that is one of the joys of this first self-titled album. The songs are honest and sound authentic, whether you are listening to one of the 8 original songs or the wonderful covers of Little Walter’s “Watch Yourself” and Tom Waits’ “Come On Up To the House.” Add to that the incredible guitar playing of Jensen, who also did a masterful job of producing the album. Then add the harmonica wizardry of Santini, and the solid backing of Arthur, Ruffino, and Green, and you have, in my opinion, the best album of the year.
Things start off with “Glad To Be,” about Jensen and Santini’s time together on Beale Street and how it shaped them, and then moves into the soul side of Memphis for “We Got A Thing Going On,” like Al Green with a slightly bluesier tint. Then the boys take a Southern rock turn on “Back to Tennessee.”
Jensen adds a touch of mysticism and some dark humor to the mix with “Leave My Body.” This bit of darkness is balanced when we go down to the riverside for the uplifting gospel-blues sound of “Souls In The Water.” “See About Me” and “You Don’t Love Me” continue the high standard of songwriting and performance.
The beautiful cover of “Come on Up To My House” fits perfectly into the originals, while “Watch Yourself” is not only creatively covered but allows Santini to show off that gorgeous harmonica in a song that was meant to let a harmonica player really shine.
The album ends with Jensen’s deeply touching acoustic “Going To Mexico,” one of the songs I am most in love with in a body of work I am in love with altogether.
I will admit that until now I thought the Jeff Jensen Band was the perfect blues-rock band. Now I know that all they were missing was a great harmonica and another skillful guitar! Since Santini and Jensen are both excellent vocalists as well and I am convinced the rest of the group can do anything they could ever be asked to do, I am convinced. On this first album, Tennessee Redemption is roots and blues perfection.