Longing For Heaven
“Longing For Heaven” is something of a mixed bag. It’s a fairly slight collection, with a running time of only 30 minutes. Production is simple throughout: fiddle on one track and harmonica on another is about as far as Jeni Hankins and Billy Kemp stray from their basic voice/guitar/banjo setup. Far and away the best thing about the album is the pure clear voice of the main singer, Hankins.
The album is split roughly half and half between traditional songs and original compositions, and to be fair there are three videos to see if you play the CD on your computer. They do a nice version of “Single Girl”. The song, which many will know as “Single Girl, Married Girl”, was made famous by the Carter Family and was covered a couple of years back by Levon Helm on his “Dirt Farmer” album. It showcases Hankins’ voice to good effect.
But in the main, it’s the original songs on the album which provide the most interest. “The Ballad Of Sally Kincaid” while in the form of a traditional ballad, is actually an original composition by Hankins, and “Cecil Roberts’ Hand” takes its inspiration from the miner and president of the United Mine Workers of America. “Father Will You Meet Me In Heaven?” tells the touching story of Jack Cash, Johnny’s brother, who died from his injuries when he fell into a whirling saw in the mill where he worked.
There’s a religious tone to several of the songs, with one being based on a hymn, and another about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. And on “I Saw A Man At The Close Of Day” they border on moralising, in a cautionary tale about the perils of strong drink.
“Longing For Heaven” is not without interest, but in the future it would be nice to see Jeni & Billy concentrating more on their own songwriting and perhaps opting for a more adventurous production, which might help them capitalise on that wonderful singing voice.