STEVE JINSKI – Muscle Memory (Lucky Smile Records LKSM2CS03)

Muscle MemoryFrom Liverpool of Polish extraction, originally one half of Jinski with Dave Kennedy, they made their debut with ‘Eventually’ in 1989, going on to release a further two albums. The duo now on an extended hiatus, Stephen Wegrzynski has launched a solo career as Steve Jinski, making his album debut with a double CD, Muscle Memory.

Of a strummed folk persuasion, Disc 1 opens with ‘The Art Of Conversation’, a mid-tempo five-minute vocally soaring anthemic folk rock ballad about the difficulty of sometimes finding the right words (“We’re the best of friends nothing can keep us apart / But in your darkest hours I didn’t know where to start / Pulling paper out of concrete tearing at the veil / All my words of kindness seemed to fail”). A similar theme informs the more fingerpicked bluesy ‘Gone’ (“He knew his chance had gone and would never come again / The saddest place is the centre of a crowded room when your friends have gone”).

Vocally calling early Ralph McTell to mind, the percussive strum of ‘Merciless’ again is about words, but here how they can be abused by a “vengeful little troubadour…behaving like some spoilt child with a talent to abuse”, using his song to skewer those who he disdains (“Taking aim with a bullet pen at the girls who come to cheer / He lines the page with dynamite and a gloating little sneer / It’s astonishing the punishing of every girl that whispered in his ear…All the smart one liners he smacked across her face / Will be merciless”).

The tempo fluctuating, ‘Putting The Boat Out’ steers into end of relationship territory (“If she says she wants to go you’d better let her go / What would be the point in trying to stop her /You thought you knew it all ah but she knew better / Now there’s a man overboard I hear them say / Waving not drowning going out with the tide”) while a bluesy circling fingerpicked patter, anchors the emotional uncertainty of ‘Strange Love’ (“There is a boundary that keeps me from you / My life ticks away day to day / My heart doesn’t know what to do”).

The second half pretty much follows a similar musical template and introspective thematic concerns, attention being directed to the jerkingly percussive ‘The Kicking Horse’, the wearily resigned ‘What She Said’ (“And in time you will feel lonely raising a family to watch it pass / Complaining bitterly why didn’t anyone tell me / But all you had to do was ask”), ‘Heaven Could Be Here’ as his voice comes in explosive bursts on the exhortation “ Try a little harder” and the thrumming, jazzier closer, woodwind brushed ‘Waiting For A Miracle’, another “war of words”, where you might hear hints of Bruce Cockburn amid the John Martyn.

CD2 is actually a remastered and polished up revisiting of the debut album, previously only available on vinyl and long out of print, a bonus for longtime fans and a bookend for newcomers, again a balance between punchy numbers like the title track and the jaunty ‘Whatever Happened To The Weekend’ and the more troubadour sounds of ‘When Men Talk’ or the delicate ‘Not A Pretty Face’.

With twenty-four tracks in total, variously calling to mind Al Stewart, Tir-Na-Nog and Bert Jansch, Muscle Memory is definite value for money for folk audiences that know a well-crafted tune and thoughtful lyrics when they hear them. Folk clubs and radio shows alike should rally in support.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘The Art Of Conversation’ – official video: