Terrill Jenkins comes out of left field with The Struggle_Life Lessons EP to blind side not only the Austin music scene, but the global music landscape that so desperately needs real music artists to save it from obscurity. This band keep to the traditions of R&B, Soul, Funk and Soft Rock music, and that includes the rules of airplay for all it’s worth. This man has a big voice and knows how to use it in both the lyrical and sonic senses. The results of this long-playing EP with only six songs, is that of something not heard every day.
Jenkins waste’s no time getting the point across that his lyrics must be heard, and they will help to get the song across, as where it usually isn’t all that important. It’s usually important to sound right in the rhythm section unless you really have something important to say. Well, Terrill Jenkins gets enough off his chest for both the former and the latter to come out in the wash. “The Struggle” is the first cut and it shows right to the bone how Jenkins works on the emotions, fully knowing that’s what helps sell his magic. It’s a slow start to get off to but also a very tough one as the lyrics slice through the arrangement like a laser beam.
“Reckless Tragedy” introduces some pleasant piano chords and combines it with some funky wah wah pedal by Matthew Alvarez who adds spot on guitar parts in just the right places, as well as providing his chief engineering skills to the EP. Jenkins establishes himself as a premiere crooner in this song, which easily rates as one of the best tracks on offer, with lyrics that center around thoughts as sad as suicide over a love affair. The song literally plays out like a true story, and that helps Jenkins convey some of his deepest emotions of them all. And that’s really-just tipping the iceberg.
“When I Get Home” is equally as interesting and satisfying as the former, with perhaps an even more impeccable result once the track is over. They don’t compete but this track and the previous one, are the peak of the bunch, as they contain the cream of the crop content of these songs. The integrity is always maintained but the tracks vary in tempo while they manage the musical vernacular while the lyrics do limit it so the social-political, but that’s where Jenkins does his best work. This is a soul singer without question, so it’s a combo of perfection.
After one of the most sublime tracks on The Struggle_Life Lessons, “Ebony Rose” comes along and smooths out the bumps with another well-written and arranged gem with another undeniably awesome vocal from Jenkins. This is essentially the jazz de opus of the release, as it clocks in at around 4:14, with every second shining around the lyrics and sheer ambience of the backing instruments. Giovanna McDanel also helps make everything as bright as can possibly be with her complimenting voice. By the time it’s over, they all “Make It Through” so well in closing, all that’s lost is more tracks to go with it on this remarkable EP.