“If Eric Clapton is God,
then Billy is the turtle upon which the universe rests.”
This was my first feature-length documentary, shot throughout a period of three years. I love the life and work of Billy and what he represents in what is a declining industry for many. You can watch the trailer of the film here:
Billy Jenkins, a renowned British Blues singer and guitarist, has been playing his shows – part music, part stand-up comedy – across the UK and internationally since the Punk movement of the 1970s. Revered by many and leveled with the likes of Robert Wyatt and Eric Clapton by the critics, he is today unable to earn a living from his music. With the decline of traditional music sales and following a period looking after his father-in-law, a dementia sufferer, Billy decided to train to become a Humanist funeral officiant. The film takes us through Billy’s music and inspiration in his early years and a career spanning four decades, offering a rare and intimate insight of his newly found spiritual role and his very unique take on religion, life and death.
The film also includes poignant contributions from comedian Stewart Lee, Guardian’s Jazz critic John L Walters, singer Claire Martin, promoter Simon Thackray, amongst others.
From avant-guard performances with Trimmer & Jenkins, Burlesque, The Fun Horns of Berlin, improvised musical boxing Big Fights, to directing Anglo-Belgium and London Meets Vienna ensembles, Billy’s idiosyncratic career is far reaching, both in the way he has influenced other well-known musicians and in his own inability to conform to trends and fashion.
Immersed in some of best British Rhythm and Blues music available today, this documentary provides the viewer with a rare and intimate insight into Billy’s uncompromising path, as he reinvents himself and the music that he plays.‘The Religion is the Blues’ ultimately traces Billy Jenkins re-emergence from a period of lack of hope to one of frank inspiration and musical joy.
Here are some of the best quotes from the press about Billy:
‘The wayward master of the woebegone’
Rob Adams Glasgow Herald
‘Only one in 20,000 English bluesmen inhabits a recognisable reality. Step forward Billy Jenkins, anarcho guitarmeister and arch-demythologiser. Pure genius’.
Mike Butler City Life
‘American readers will be baffled by him; but he is, along with the Princess Royal and Walthamstow dog stadium, one of our national treasures.’
Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD
‘His humour surely springs from a deeply moralistic, even puritanical stance, and surely the adjectives normally applied to Jenkins – such as ‘zany’ and ‘quirky’ – actually diminish what in reality constitutes a serious and savagely satirical attack on commercialism and consumerism.’
Trevor Hodgett, Jazzwise
‘Billy Jenkins has the priceless ability to merge serious music-making with absolute lunacy, and make the one feed off the creative energy of the other’.
Kenny Mathieson The Scotsman
‘Next to Jenkins, chroniclers of modern Britain such as Pulp seem like feckless dilettanti’
Richard Cook, New Statesman