Jeff Plankenhorn – Alone At Sea
This is Jeff’s 4th CD features his distinctive voice & spare instrumentation that’s actually layered tones that are subtle & border between the darker Bob Dylan tunes & the melodic meanderings of Tom Waits. Very likable because Plankenhorn is a careful distance from basic mainstream artists. He walks his own road & sometimes it seems he makes his own road.
With “Bird Out On 9th,” he lays out the general menu of his musical dishes then switches gears on “Maybe It’s Not Too Late,” that’s far more upbeat. He generates steam as in the memorable opening strains of “On the Road Again,” by Canned Heat that will tweak the memory. A very J.J. Cale feel. I like this one. Jeff has good phrasing & sings with gusto which means he’s probably entertaining live as well.
There are 10 endeavors on Alone At Sea (Drops Sept 29–Blue Corn/Spike Steel) where the vocals can slide into a hyper-Leon Russell accent. Produced by Colin Linden (harmony vocals/electric & acoustic guitar/Resolectric guitar/12-string acoustic guitar) the 41-minute showcase is a diversified set that subjectively touches upon areas many songwriters ignore. That makes for an interesting listen.
The title cut “Alone At Sea” has wisps of a joyous Jimmy Buffet memory in it. It’s a slow ballad but it does have a breezy melody. Jeff’s vocal is the sales pitch – believable & relaxing. The Ohio-born singer absorbed lots of influences & provides what he’s learned in this fine collection recorded in Nashville.
The LP is a pleasant romp with well-written songs. Jeff’s solid vocals with airy instrumentation (“Bluer Skies”) are fluid & the music is neither country, folk, or pure rock. Just good songs played with finesse.
It’s a little edgier than James Taylor. It has that good weather & clear sailing approach of Buffett & the musicality of The James Gang when Joe Walsh gave them the big guitar slices they needed. “Flat Tire” has the commercial drive of the old country-rock singers. Jeff punches it up with lots of cleverness instead of cliches.
When it comes to slow ballads Jeff isn’t Frank Sinatra. The songs are enjoyable, but his upbeat tunes are the motherlode. Plankenhorn’s real worth shines bright on tunes like “Juggling Sand,” that’s an astute rocker. Mindful of Marc Cohn, Jim Pulte & Steve Earle. Jeff smokes this tune down to the filter. A good entertaining set by a reliable artist.
Highlights – “Bird Out On 9th,” “Maybe It’s Not Too Late,” “Alone At Sea,” “Bluer Skies,” “Flat Tire” & “Juggling Sand.”
Musicians – Jeff (lead/harmony vocals/Oahu acoustic & electric lap steels/acoustic & electric guitars/Melodigrand piano), John Dymond (bass), George Russell & Jerry Roe (drums), Gary Craig (drums/percussion), Jim Hoke (horn arrangements/B3 organ) & Janice Powers (B3 organ).
Color image by Nicola Gell. CD @ https://jeffplankenhorn.com/
Americana Highways song premiere: https://americanahighways.org/2023/08/16/song-premiere-jeff-plankenhorn-alone-at-sea/