Step Inside

Kevin Jenkins

True Groove, 2013

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love


While he’s no newcomer to music, Step Inside marks the solo debut of legendary bassist Kevin Jenkins. Working every big stage from the Royal Albert Hall to Madison Square Garden, Jenkins has supported a myriad of artists during his 38 years on the music scene. He’s opened for Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, and BB King, and he’s played anchor on bass for Cyndi Lauer, Enrique Iglesias, and Graham Parker, among countless others. Jenkins has a knack for effortlessly navigating a wide variety of sounds, as evidenced by the sheer diversity in his collaborations over the years. So it’s no surprise that his first outing at the mic is equally eclectic, finding him teaming up with NYC soul artist Tómas Doncker, who co-writes and helped produce all of the tunes on Step Inside. While there is a soulful R&B core underlying most of the songs here, he also tries his hand at blues, reggae, pop, and jazz, using his engaging vocal stylings and strong ear for instrumentation to blend everything well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

After a short vocal interlude on “Flying,” Jenkins launches into the slinky rhythms of “What Comes Around.” “Step inside my circle, take this trip with me,” he implores, all honeyed vocals and absolutely electric guitar lines mingling with the horns. Meanwhile, the seductive “Can’t Get Over You” is pure ‘70s soul in the vein of Marvin Gaye or Stevie Wonder. Jenkins weaves effortlessly from falsetto to soaring, full-throated choruses, showing his chops as a frontman. The warmhearted quality to his vocals throughout Step Inside is a key to making the album so inviting and organic.

Jenkins takes on Jimmy Webb’s “Wichita Lineman” (made famous by Glen Campbell) but gives it a mellow, tuneful jazz spin, flecked with slow-rising synths and gentle bass. It’s an even more soulful interpretation than the country original that sounds unassuming on first listen but grows more resonant with each spin as the tenderness sinks in. From this silky balladry, he swerves into the reggae beats of “Save The Day,” which features a sultry sax line weaving past the muted interplay of drums and horns, and “Take This Ride,” a duet with Shemekia Copeland that veers into twangy blues territory. Their two voices blend well together against a backdrop of rich guitar soloing and solid bass work.

While the first half of Step Inside has a strong sense of diversity that is anchored by Jenkins’ considerable talents, the second part of the album falters a little in terms of musical depth. Tracks like “Learn To Love,” “Amazing,” and “Change Of Heart” are tuneful yet bogged down by the vagueness of the lyrics. The sentiment is there in lines like “It’s never too late to have a change, a change of heart / It’s never too late to take a chance, make a new start” (from “Change Of Heart”), but the lack of specificity hinders the full impact of these grooves and they blur together a bit too much to be meaningful.

But on his first effort, Kevin Jenkins’ has created a charming batch of songs that is true to his description of his work: “souful organic pop with a positive, uplifting message.” Check out this frontman who is 38 years in the making.

Rating: B-

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