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Clay Walker - Texas to Tennessee
You’re a huge 90s country fan with kids and a busy life, and you didn’t actually listen to this album. You just assumed it was good because Clay Walker.
Strand of Oaks - In Heaven
You haven’t been out of the house in 19 months except to get packages from Smoke Cartel off the porch. You’re apolitical except about weed.
Sturgill Simpson - The Ballad of Dood & Juanita
You are a sports writer or a Sturgill Stan. You spent a great deal of time making fun of Hillbilly Elegy on Twitter this year.
You can only listen to happy music because even a Hallmark movie is too emotionally roiling for you. You have argued passionately online about how Niko is in fact a country singer, and then you forgot he existed a month later when his second single tanked, and you only remember him now because he was number one on your Spotify Wrapped.
You are whatever hipsters are called in 2021. You raged when this album was left out of the Grammy country nominations, but only because everyone else in your social bubble was doing the same. You have never heard Same Trailer, Different Park.
Nov 16, 2021
Oct 12, 2021
Aug 27, 2021
A fast-learning late-bloomer, Grayson Jenkins wrote his first song at 21 and now 7-8 years later is releasing Turning Tides, his third full album. Its writing was completed before the pandemic and recording took place just a few months in but Jenkins decided to hold off on releasing it, leaving him on hold, mentally and career-wise. He considered hanging it up more than once in 2020, but thankfully he did not.
If you’re a first timer like myself, Grayson Jenkins has a warm, reedy voice that welcomes you right in. His bio mentions Eric Church and Keith Whitley as descriptors, but I’m hearing more Bruce Robison. None of those are comparisons he’d turn his nose up at, I’m guessing. The music is much the same - enveloping and hospitable, a chilled out honky-tonk experience.
There’s a lot of what I’d call ‘soothing darkness’ sonically on this record. - a low key, soft approach, that while far from sparse musically, gives Jenkins a lot of room vocally. What he does with that space is croon to us of lonely nights, anxiety, hard work, and glimmers of hope.
The title cut is a main example of that sound of soothing darkness. Lyrically, though, it’s a ray of sun through drawn curtains, seeing hope after a hard time. Though written before these “crazy times,” one wouldn’t be wrong to apply the song to our current state.
“Low Down Lady” is a shuffling bar room toe-tapper that seems custom made for a Texas dancehall. It never gets around to explaining why she’s a “bad low-down lady,” but you know he’s crazy for somebody he ought not be, and it really doesn’t matter with a song this damn fun. Piano, steel, and a guitar solo fill this one out to perfection.
One of the highlights of the album for me, “Picket Fences” was co-written with Nicholas Jamerson (he of much independent country affection and also half the duo Sundy Best). It’s a fiddle-heavy look at the life of a musician compared to that of the average thirty-something. “I’ll take my rambling, keep your picket fence,” sings Jenkins, more than satisfied with the path he picked.
Turning Tides is yet another entry in the seemingly endless parade of excellent albums out of the Bluegrass State. At this point I’m surprised burgeoning musicians don’t move to Kentucky to get a dose of whatever’s in that water. Anyway, this record, it’s a good one and with it, you can still get in relatively early on another artist who’s gonna be a stalwart in the scene for years to come.