Jeff Plankenhorn Alone At Sea

By Brian Rock

Funky folkster, Jeff Plankenhorn unplugs to recharge on his fourth album, Alone At Sea. A story/cycle in three acts, Alone At Sea, addresses our hectic lives, the need to get away from our worries, and the need to come back refreshed. In more subdued tones than his previous rock and blues influenced album, Sleeping Dogs, this album showcases his acoustic talents in folk hues with occasional soul and Piedmont blues flourishes.

The first act in Plankenhorn’s saga is, “The Mess.” An exotic salsa rhythm slinks along as he recounts the sorry state of his current condition. Singing, “The floorboard’s creaking, I think it’s gonna give, and the tin roof’s leaking; but it’s where I have to live,” Plankenhorn describes the deteriorating state of his abode. Pulses of electric organ add an ominous flair as he sings, “well, the window’s broken, so everyone can see the mess – that is me.” Finally revealing that the house in need of repairs is his own psyche, Plankenhorn is ready for a break.

A chance encounter on, “Bird Out On 9th,” crystallizes his desire for a change. Acoustic Piedmont blues capture the mood as Plankenhorn sees in the bird, “a taste of everything wild and free.” Seeking that freedom for himself, he heads out on, “Alone At Sea,” The gently rolling folk rhythm ebbs and flows like waves lapping at the shore as Plankenhorn longs for an isolated island where he can just get away from it all. But in his solitude, he still feels the need to be with his lover. “Keep Me On Your Mind,” creates a cocktail jazz vibe as Plankenhorn sends reassurances that despite his departure, he’ll be coming back home. Torn between the calming effect of his tropical retreat, and the yearning for his partner, Plankenhorn invites her to join him in, “Bluer Skies.” A subtle electric guitar pairs with the acoustic lead to cast a siren’s spell of temptation to join him in paradise. 

Unable to stay in his blissful exile forever, Plankenhorn returns home. But with fresh energy and a new perspective, he shares a positive message from his sojourn. “Maybe It’s Not Too Late,” is a soulful, Piedmont blues bundle of joy. Imparting words of wisdom to others who feel their life has become a mess, he sings, “Go down by the river, let yourself contemplate. Maybe it’s not too late.” Channeling the exuberant Southern funk of Delbert McClinton on, “Juggling Sand,” he urges us to let go of the things that stress us out. He warns that, “Holding on might as well be juggling sand;” which just makes a bad situation worse. “Do A Little Dancing,” captures the urban folk of Jim Croce as he offers his third piece of advice for reclaiming your peace of mind. But like the Zen koan: “Before enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, you chop wood and carry water;” Plankenhorn finds himself back in the daily grind. “Flat Tire,” is a rollicking, folk rock account of the pitfalls of a truck driver’s life on the road. Faced with a snag in his daily flow, Plankenhorn must decide whether to repeat his cycle or incorporate his newfound wisdom. 

Plankenhorn’s journey from stressed daily life, to peaceful pause, to peaceful daily life, is brilliantly underscored by the changes in arrangements. From exotic and ominous to soothing and calming to triumphant and joyful, the musical score could tell the story even without words. But Plankenhorn’s lyrics add depth and charm and personalize this cycle of life that we all face. “Alone At Sea,” is the cathartic break we all could use when we’re feeling stressed.  |   fb   |  buy

Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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