ray my dear daughter, don't marry a folk singer. Oh you know, they never sing in tune. "Pray my dear daughter, don't marry a folk singer. They're weird and they whine and they never fill a room."
As far as self-deprecating couplets goes, the one that opens Charles Jenkins' song Pray My Dear Daughter is a ripper.
The folk song, inspired by an old Chinese gold mining song, lists professions and their worth to a "demented, doting, father-in-law from hell". Jenkins' narrator also warns his daughter that comedians are a miserable bunch and journalists, well, "we all know they never come back from lunch".
Music critics have come to expect such well-crafted lyrics from Jenkins, the Melbourne musician who enjoyed modest infamy with previous bands, Adelaide 80s outfit the Mad Turks from Istanbul and, more recently, Icecream Hands. Pray My Dear Daughter features on Love Your Crooked Neighbour with Your Crooked Heart, Jenkins' fifth solo record. The album was recorded with the Zhivagos, his backing band which features You Am I's Davey Lane on guitar and ukulele. Jenkins concedes readily that great American singer/
songwriter Randy Newman is a huge influence on his droll lyrics.
"He was my special subject on RocKwiz a few years back," he says from his hometown.
"He is the most fearless songwriter I know. Makes Waits and Cave and Dylan and the rest of us look like wimps in comparison."
When approaching the follow-up to his acclaimed 2010 album, Walk this Ocean, the 40-something songwriter aimed to craft "folk tales - dark and humorous, weird, beautiful and bent and full of strange certifiable critters who may say something interesting every now and then, so you want to keep hanging in there".
While many musicians prefer not to have their music pigeonholed, Jenkins is happy to place Love Your Crooked Neighbour in the country/folk section. "I worked in record stores for 20 years so I know it helps the person selling it behind the counter," he says.
After other labels released his previous four albums, dating back to 2004's "quiet" debut Bungalow, Jenkins has issued Love Your Crooked Neighbour on his own Silver Stamp Records label.
"Silver Stamp Records is me," he says. "I have help but I get to wear the ill-fitting suits and chomp on the cigar, throw the phone and hold the bank manager up against the wall by his lapels. Good work if you can get it."
Icecream Hands has not released an album in five years, nor played a gig in the past two. Jenkins says he loves being his own boss and recording with the Zhivagos and friends, including former band mate Douglas Lee Robertson, songstress Suzannah Espie and his son, Henry Jenkins.
The latter has embarked on his own rock'n'roll career, playing in young 10-piece funk ensemble the Cactus Channel. Does Jenkins counsel his son, like the demented dad in Pray My Dear Daughter?
"Not really advice, more like highly embellished recollections," he says. "When his band first started, myself and the other parents were proud roadies, but maybe we left a few leads behind or dropped an amp, as they don't seem to need us as much anymore."Love Your Crooked Neighbour with Your Crooked Heart is out now. Charles Jenkins plays the Norfolk Basement, Fremantle, on Thursday and the Velvet Lounge, Mt Lawley (with Suzannah Espie), on Friday. See the venues for tickets.
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