Husband and wife duo JENNY AND ALEX LEGG have just released their first album. But there's a serious intent behind their music as Janey Lee Grace discovered.

Jenny and Alex Legg
Jenny and Alex Legg

"If Jesus were here on earth now he'd be out with the Aids' victims, the homeless and the drug addicts, I'm convinced of that. That's where we want to be - at the sharp end."

So says Alex, one half of duo Jenny And Alex Legg, who invited me to come and meet them in their normal working environment. Outside the meeting place for our interview, a West End hotel, gleaming limousines and shining black cabs jostled for position. I walked through the revolving doors, across the spacious foyer and followed the bold brass sign that led me downstairs to the Three Crowns Restaurant.

Jenny and Alex were setting up their gear and sound checking for their 'covers gig' - on this occasion a hotel Dinner Dance. The ash and chrome decor and electric crystal chandeliers provided the setting and bow-tied waiters hovered, chinking glasses and folding stiff peach napkins. I waited at the back of the room. Across the raised dance floor the stage was set - a rack of black boxes with small winking lights, two microphones on stands, Alex's guitar and two black speaker boxes, their frayed corners a testimony to the fact that this little set-up has been humped into more venues than Cliff Richard has had Christmas hits.

Alex and Jenny operate as a professional duo in two worlds and they're consciously trying to narrow the gap, or at least build a bridge between the two. Three or four nights a week they're out on these 'covers gigs', playing everything from waltzes to rock 'n' roll (but they assure me they try to avoid "The Birdie Song"!). More recently they've also been appearing at churches, outreach events and prisons, playing their own original material -heartfelt Christian songs with direct and uncompromising gospel lyrics.

What's fascinating to me about Alex and Jenny is that they were musicians before they were Christians. For many years 'sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll' summed up Alex's lifestyle as a singer/songwriter. Jenny (an Olivia Newton John look-alike) from Melbourne, Australia came to London in 1988 to "try and be famous" as a singer. Alex believes that the world doesn't owe anyone a platform to perform and succeed as singer/songwriters. It's a status that has to be earned. Meanwhile, he says, everyone has to eat! In a deep Aberdeen accent made gravelly by years of cigarettes and whisky Alex explained. "I'm being true to myself by playing music for a living - even if they are cover versions. I can't do anything else. It would be more untrue for me to go and work as a builder's labourer. I'd find that more soul destroying."

One of the ways Alex and Jenny are exploring how to bridge the two worlds is by using their 'covers gigs' as opportunities to 'pre-evangelise'. Jenny explained, "People obviously want to hear the songs that they know, but on one or two of our residencies we slip in some of our own songs. It's great when people ask where they can buy them. Now we have our own album to sell at our gigs, although we may have to include the equivalent of a government health warning to say this cassette contains the Christian message!"

As relatively new Christians with a passionate desire to convey the Christian gospel through their music, Alex and Jenny told me how they first tried to record the songs on their four track at home. It proved incredibly stressful and frustrating. A Christian friend advised them to step back and realise that it was God who was most important and not the album. They acquiesced, but the desire to record those songs remained.

While on holiday in Australia last year, they met and worked with evangelist John Smith. Alex told me, "We were inspired by a church where Christians rolled up their sleeves and got their hands dirty with the people that Jesus would have been amongst."

With new clarity of vision they returned from down under and tentatively approached their church (Muswell Hill Baptist Church in North London) for a loan to finance the album. "It was incredible," Alex said. "The church had a special fund set aside for unusual evangelistic projects. They knew we were already out there playing to non-Christians so they felt we qualified. They lent us five thousand pounds interest free to make the album possible." Alex and Jenny then contacted former After The Fire frontman Andy Piercy and asked him to produce the album. From conception to delivery the whole project took four weeks -inlay cards and all!

I learned from Alex and Jenny that they want their cassette 'Falling Off The Edge Of The World' to encourage and challenge Christians and also, hopefully, to speak to those non-Christians who are willing to hear. The album is a striking debut, full of catchy hooks and uncompromising messages with arrangements favouring acoustic guitars. Most striking of all is Jenny's haunting lead vocals. They're pleased with their album but it's about ministry that their talk grows most passionate. "We don't want to just sit and cosily entertain Christians," Alex said. "Our ideal is to play to Christians who bring along | their non-Christian friends."

They achieved that ideal last summer when they hosted an evangelistic night at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London's Soho district. Alex and Jenny had played a few times at the weekly Songwriters Showcase Night upstairs at Ronnie's and the organiser of that club offered them the venue to present their own concert. "We decided to make it an outreach event," Alex explained. "We went to various churches in and around London's West End and sold tickets at £2.00 each. We stipulated that Christians must bring a non-Christian with them. We filled the place, gave our testimonies, told of our chequered past and gave the Christian message alongside our music. A few of the atheists there got quite upset about the message. We obviously rattled a few cages that night, which is what I believe it's really all about." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.