Terril Jenkins – Life Lessons_The Struggle (EP)
Austin, TX based, Terril Jenkins – Life Lessons_The Struggle, is a mixed bag of slow gems with a powerhouse line-up. Jenkins has roots in Gospel/R&B/Country, so his band have a lot of variety but nothing very country can be found among the influences on this EP full of amazing cuts that go great distances to get points across that mostly anyone can place their own situations to and find themselves not the only ones with the same trials and tribulations. Terrill Jenkins has a way of reflecting like no other, by showing the same flaws as everyone else to sympathize with.
“The Struggle” begins on a somber note, but it helps set up the mood for the entire EP, and Jenkins is irresistible in his vocal delivery. The way he sings alone is majestic, so it doesn’t even really matter what the song is about. Nevertheless, these are smoking lyrics and the song is an overall solid opener, if a little on the slow side, but that’s rectified with some stellar saxophone on this groovy piece. “Reckless Tragedy” brings more somber factors but it also takes things up a notch while Jenkins is at it with some pretty-depressing lyrics. It still somehow gets through a little better than the previous track.
“When I Get Home” is one of my overall favorites because it rides somewhere in-between everything this album has to offer, short of being a full-length release even though it tends to play like one. This is just where Jenkins gets the most accomplished between his lyrics, vocals and other duties with what is probably the most accessible track. Radio airplay is something written all over it. “I’m Yours” is lovely, but it doesn’t go anywhere else the rest of these songs don’t, although Jenkins always gets top marks for his efforts and so does his group of fine players. If you like the slow stuff, this track still does the business.
As the songs wind down it doesn’t get any better than “Ebony Rose” with its laid-back approach that Jenkins is good for throughout this release but does plenty to disguise here and there, usually by adding background vocalist, Giovanna McDanel in just the right places. This track is no exception to that rule, in fact it helps this track pop all the way. This is smooth jazz at its finest, with everyone giving their best to make a song anyone can enjoy. I rate this as the first or-second best track of the bunch, but opinions will vary. It’s just that I couldn’t see most music lovers not getting off on everything here.
The amount of variety in these songs is stunning for how overall jazzy the tunes are, and you just can’t get around that. It’s a cut above the static norms of today’s music scene, with a sophistication not often heard anymore. It harks back to when more R&B was more mainstream than it is now, but the same goes for the smooth jazz elements this EP is also full of. The closing track “Make It through” is more proof of the same, and the fact that Terrill Jenkins is making big noise in Austin, TX and beyond.