With several Kentuckians currently occupying spots on most any music chart you look at, one would have to agree that Kentucky holds an embarrassment of riches within her musical arms. The love and support of her music family finds a new way to impress me on a daily basis.
So I want to re-introduce you to a young man that is about to make his own push and hopefully climbs his way up a few of those charts himself. Grayson Jenkins may or may not be a new name to you, either way you’re gonna find something you’ll like on ‘Turning Tides.’ That’s the brand new album from Mr. Jenkins, which drops everywhere on August 27th.
‘Turning Tides’ is a veritable smorgasbord of quality tunes that shines a bright light upon the songwriting and vocal prowess of Grayson. His signature vibrato is front and center, and in my humble opinion, Grayson has really harnessed his ability to use his vibrato as a beautiful accent. Some artists can overuse their abilities and they become a crutch. Grayson has found his balance and it’s that growth that has elevated ‘Turning Tides’ to the top of the list of Jenkins’ releases.
A quick glance at the album credits will throw a spark on your desire to dive deep into this one. Don’t believe me? Tell me this list doesn’t pique your interest, and I’ll likely tell ya that you’re crazy, or maybe even a liar.
Produced by Grayson Jenkins and Jesse Wells (Tyler Childers, The Wooks)
Recorded at Fat Baby Studios (Whitesburg, KY) and Sneak Attack Recording Co. (Lexington, KY).
Mixed by Jason Groves at Sneak Attack Recording Co.
Mastered by Pete Lyman at Infrasonic Sound
Grayson Jenkins – Acoustic Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica
Jesse Wells – Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Fiddle
Miles Miller (Sturgill Simpson) – Drums
Kenny Miles (Wayne Graham) – Bass
Aaron Smith (Brother Smith, Nicholas Jamerson) – Backing Vocals, Mandolin
Wesley Smith (Brother Smith, Nicholas Jamerson) – Backing Vocals, Mandolin
Ryan Allen (Magnolia Boulevard) – Keys, Backing Vocals
Tyler Young – Backing Vocals
Nicholas Jamerson (Sundy Best) – Backing Vocals
Gregg Erwin (Magnolia Boulevard) – Slide Guitar
David Carter (Tyler Booth) – Steel Guitar
Abby Hamilton – Backing Vocals
Zach Martin (Lilac, The Local Honeys) – Percussion
Mike Stevens – Harmonica
The album kicks off with “Mockingbird,” which sets the mood and introduces you to the audible landscape that Grayson has created. You’ll find influences from 90’s Country to modern Bluegrass represented in the opener. That’s a wonderful thing that will continue throughout the album.
Check out this stripped-down performance of “Mockingbird” below:
“Nowhere Nights” is a lyrical showcase that allows Grayson to tell his story, which is shared by any musician that has chased their dreams. The baritone telecaster, steel guitar, and organ paint the smokey bar setting and places you exactly where Jenkins wants you. The loneliness, the trials, the financial struggles, and the calling to chase your dreams fight with each other for the spotlight in this one and that’s why it’s in my top 3 of tracks from ‘Turning Tides.’
So how do you follow that? You bring in special guests and deliver Thor’s Hammer right to the listener’s face. The self-titled track is a definite standout and a gem that I hope you take the time to discover and soak in. It’s my personal favorite from ‘Turning Tides.”
Featuring the Tele prominently, Grayson brought in Magnolia Boulevard’s Gregg Erwin to add slide guitar, rather than the steel guitar. In doing so, you can rest assured that Grayson also knows that “Turning Tides” is a heavyweight puncher. Gregg’s bandmate in Magnolia Boulevard is none other than Mr. Ryan Allen. Ryan is also a member of Grayson’s band and he adds layers with his keys that keep things flowing like a gentle river, giving this slow churning journey of realization the atmosphere needed for Jenkins to deliver his message. This one will be in heavy rotation for me, for a very long time.
Up next is a no-brainer. You’re currently reading a website dedicated to Kentucky, so you best believe we’re gonna talk about a song that features the desire to return to the small town of Jackson. I spent a small part of my youth in Breathitt County myself, so somewhere between the fiddle and the locations, lies my own heart and I love it. We’ve all been to our breaking points and felt the need to go back home and reset our batteries. That relatability is what will make “Jackson” a popular tune.
Next is the centerpiece and first single from ‘Turning Tides.’ “Low Down Lady” is just incredibly fun. I’m a huge fan of Don Williams and the vibe of “Low Down Lady,” a boogie-woogie tune with a little Tulsa shuffle, conjures up Don’s massive hit “Tulsa Time.” I can hear a little influence from Dwight Yoakam and even a little bit of The Tractors as well, which is an incredibly underrated band. If you know me and my love for Mr. Williams, Sir Dwight, and The Tractors, you’ll know just how high of praise that actually is.
Check out the video of “Low Down Lady” below:
I mentioned that you’d hear a little 90’s Country influence throughout, that shows up in plain sight on “Kennedy Road.” Kevin Welch is an artist that had several charting singles in the 90’s and I have always loved his songwriting. Grayson may have never even heard of Kevin Welch, and if he hasn’t, he should because he will have a new favorite artist. “Kennedy Road” is a beautiful tale of reflection of the journey of leaving your roots and the fears that come along with that. Looking back at who he once was, and the man who he is now, allows Grayson to deliver my 2nd favorite track from ‘Turning Tides.’
You’ll enjoy the acoustic version of “Turning Tides” as well. But I want to end this review with “Sweet Yesterday.” If you want to understand just how much Grayson has grown as a songwriter, punch your ticket and take the ride on this one. “Sweet Yesterday” is the most perfectly balanced tune you’ll hear from Grayson. I’m not even going to tell you what the song is about. Nope. I’m going to challenge you to seek this one out. You’ll thank me later, and you’ll fall in love. I give you my promise on that.
So there ya have it. An overview of one of the best albums that 2021 has delivered so far. Grayson Jenkins has grown into the artist that I had hoped he’d grow into when I first saw him perform back in 2017. In my opinion, ‘Turning Tides’ will be a breakout release from a young man that has worked his a$$ off and figured out exactly who he is as an artist. For that, I feel everyone should have a listen.