Frank Jurgens’ life experiences inform his songwriting vision. The New Jersey born singer/songwriter confesses to exploring life’s rougher terrain as a young man, but he balances out those lessons with dedicated artistry that continues expanding with each passing year. His influences never manifest themselves in an overt way, but they are there if you listen closely. His EP Recording Den Sessions has three songs, a seemingly meager offering, but this trio of tracks encompasses a vast inner life and world. A Berklee School of Music and Hartford Conservatory of Music alumni, Jurgens’ talents are flexible and polished without sacrificing a solid identity or even a sliver of soul.
“Suppose” embraces a cataloging style with its lyrics during the first verse before he switches up the language. It’s an excellent start. Juxtaposing his rough hewn, yet emotive, voice with brass makes for a compelling contrast. The cut is quite stylized, without question, but the stylization never comes at the expense of its sincerity. He isn’t utilizing the song’s jazzy sound as a shallow vehicle but revamps the sound for his purposes in a convincing fashion. Some will call this Americana and the label fits, but it goes beyond labels. It’s a deceptively ambitious track because it reaches for something larger. Jurgens approximates the American musical experience in a historical context rather than limiting himself to crowd pleasing songcraft.
There’s that as well, make no mistake. We hear it as well with the song “What Veronica Wants”. Saxophone makes its presence felt during the introduction and continues exerting an effect throughout the cut. It’s a character study, a bit more personal than its predecessor, and recalls golden oldies from rock music’s early days without ever sounding dated. Adopting a singer/songwriter slant for the song sets it apart. Layering rollicking piano into the arrangement deepens the song’s impact.
Piano has a noticeable effect on the final song “You Could Be the Change”. Jurgens continues putting saxophone to good use, but it is less prominent than the earlier tunes. It’s a love song, there’s no doubt of that, but he tackles the form from a different angle than many of his peers and contemporaries. A dollop of humor distinguishes the lyrics, but it is his way with language that breaks with any hint of a cookie cutter approach. The aforementioned saxophone makes its presence felt more later in the song and cuts loose with energetic soloing near its conclusion.
No one else is writing, recording, and performing music like this in 2023. Frank Jurgens thrives from the collision of past and present without ever leaning too far in either direction. The balance he achieves brings each of the EP’s three songs to vivid life. He keeps the performances focused, yet loose and confident, and his unabashed love for the musical style resounds in his vocals. Recording Den Sessions doesn’t attempt remaking the wheel, but Frank Jurgens proves that’s especially adept at pouring old wine into new bottles. It is one of the year’s tastier confections.