album reviews

John Jennings
Impromptu (2005)

Singer-songwriter John Jennings may be known more for other people's music than for his own. Most notably, he has performed with, won Grammys with and produced albums by country songstress Mary Chapin Carpenter. His other production and instrumentalist credits, stretching back nearly 20 years, are a who's who of folk rock, from the Indigo Girls and Catie Curtis to Eddie From Ohio and BeauSoleil.

It's a shame that Jennings's music is so overshadowed by his impressive résumé his own albums (of which the aptly named "Four" is the fourth) are difficult to track down even at the largest and most extensive online retailers. There's no real reason for Jennings to be such a secret: His catchy songwriting and well-orchestrated arrangements are apparent from the opening track, "Hector Falls." Amid allusions to the Trojan War, Jennings buries subtle protests ("I used to know your song, love/But I cannot sing it anymore/I'll come home in the springtime/When we grow tired of war") under a bouncy melody.

Despite such an up-tempo rhythm, Jennings's melancholy is convincing because of the wisdom in his voice, reminiscent of Don McLean's bittersweet tenderness. In fact, Jennings's vocals sell "Four's" most expressive moments, from the confessional "Born to Run" to the affectionate "I'm Your Man." Jennings closes "Four" with the delicate piano ballad "If the River Freezes," whose sparse arrangement underscores his pensiveness. With such solid songwriting to his name, it's unfortunate that Jennings is still standing in the shadows of those whom he has helped make so famous.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post: 20 January 2006, Page WE13
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