Full of an infectious energy that seemed to thrum deep within him, country singer-songwriter Austin Jenckes burst onto The Crocodile’s stage in a whirl of heartfelt lyrics and syrupy, satisfying hooks.
“Feeling good!” he exclaimed. It was not a question.
Forgive Jenckes for being excited. The Duvall, Wash., native recently finished up a run on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice,” and is headed out on tour with Cody Beebe and the Crooks.
During his time on “The Voice” Jenckes made it all the way to the live rounds and his experience singing under the pressure of live television showed in his voice. It’s got a pleasant, authoritative gravel to it but Jenckes is more than capable of hitting the high notes on songs like “It’s Good to Be Alive.”
He showed off his songwriting pedigree with “Get You Higher,” another polished piece of pop country with soaring vocals and a sing-a-long chorus. It’s songs like these that seem to suggest the future is bright for Jenckes, especially if he markets his music as country.
One of the songs that became a trademark for Jenckes on “The Voice,” The Black Crowes’ “She Talks To Angels” became a triumphant anthem and a reminder of what a big year 2013 was for him. Some songs didn’t work quite as well. “The Sound of Love,” from Jenckes’ 2012 EP “An American Story,” was a little overwrought and one of the night’s less-effective moments.
But Jenckes is well-aware of how to play to his strengths and he soon returned to the kind of breezy pop music at which he excels. His songwriting doesn’t break much ground and won’t make you dig for much hidden meaning, but his new song “Whatever You Want” is the perfect example of what works well for Jenckes: timeless lyrics about love, slick production and a focus on Jenckes’ soaring vocal abilities.
Impressively, Jenckes sounded better within the crowded confines of The Croc on a wet Wednesday night than he did many weeks on “The Voice.” It’s just another reason why Jenckes seems primed to make the leap to the next level.
Before heading out of Seattle for the rest of his tour, Jenckes will play two more sold-out shows at The Crocodile on Thursday and Saturday. Then it’s down to Portland to get the tour underway in earnest.
Jenckes is wise to seize on the opportunity he’s been presented so aggressively. Sure, he might have liked to progress further with “The Voice,” but Jenckes is good enough to survive outside the artifice of television and strong enough to navigate the treacherous waters of Music Row.
For Jenckes, the time is now and he’s got every right to be feeling good.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails