Billy Jenkins - I Am A Man From Lewisham (VOTP)

A blues album performed by a splendid selection of musicians led by Billy Jenkins and his guitar.

Released Apr 21st, 2010 via VOTP / By David Brown
Billy Jenkins - I Am A Man From Lewisham (VOTP) Firstly, I must register a personal interest since many years ago, when I was a resident in Lewisham, Billy Jenkins used to come round my flat and try to teach me the rudiments of chess while we listened to whatever albums took our fancy. He failed to teach me the game, but usually hung around long enough to beat me at draughts too.

At the time he was one half of Trimmer & Jenkins, the survivors from the band that was Burlesque. The other musician in that duo was saxophonist Ian Trimmer and together they were performing a manic mix of music and comedy which required their audience to have some knowledge of musical and social history, a broad sense of humour and the ability to listen to what was being played and said.

Since then, Billy has been a very busy boy as a solo writer, performer and occasional bandleader with an impressive string of albums to his credit. Three of his vinyl albums from the period 1986-1988, Uncommerciality, Scratches of Spain and Motorway at Night, I continue to play and enjoy regularly. I am delighted, by the way, that the Uncommerciality series (1986-1992) is being reissued as digital downloads this summer, while his 1981 Sounds Like Bromley album is being issued digitally for the first time at the same time as this new release.

For this we are in Billy’s comfort zone, if he has such a thing, of south east London, recorded at Escapade Studios in Greenwich. It begins with the blues as Billy growls out ‘I Am A Man From Lewisham’ over his ever restless and inventive guitarwork, and it closes with the blues as we are invited to ‘Throw Them Blues In The Recycling Bin’. In between these two blues we are taken on a musical journey which never strays far from the bend in the River Thames as we explore ‘On (Catford) Broadway’ and take a colourful meander through the canvas-flapping stalls at ‘Deptford Market’. The cover shows our hero playing bowls and there is a title dedicated to the ‘Francis Drake Bowls Club’ of which Billy is a former captain.

As ever, there are a splendid selection of musicians on hand to dazzle us with the musical variations presented here with ideas galore vying for our attention as hooks and themes dig their way into our brains. If I had to pick out individual highlights, which is very unfair in such a democratic musical gathering, it would be Gail Brand’s inspirational interjections on trombone, Oren Marshall’s splendid solo and ensemble work on tuba, and Dylan Bates’ violin playing which brought out the gypsy in me. The Voice of God Collective Junior League Choir add a further dimension as this sizzling set drawers to a close. In keeping with the London links, it has to be said that Billy sings like an angel – that’s The Angel, Islington, of course! But wait, I hear you say, isn’t that the wrong side of the river? Check mate!