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Sunday, August 07, 2016

ROUTES & BRANCHES  
a home for the americana diaspora
August 6, 2016
Scott Foley

I attended seminary for a year after my undergrad program.  That was enough to dissuade me from joining the ranks of the traditionally religious.  I love religious language, however:  sin and salvation, devotion and doubt, grace and baptism.  Unfortunately, the language has been co-opted, broken by religious literalists, estranged from its original poetry.

"I've got a bad, tortured soul" Cody Jinks sings by way of introduction.  I've been living for the past week with his fifth record, I'm Not the Devil, and I'll admit this is hardly a revelation.  The Fort Worth resident's 2015 release, Adobe Sessions, appeared at or near the top of the year end favorites lists of several genre bloggers.  Because of his stint as a heavy metal frontman, his beard and copious tattoos, it's easy to apply the "outlaw" stamp to Jinks' music, though I'd argue that his songs are wider ranging, more thoughtful and dwell on far fewer stereotypes.  More than on his earlier albums, Jinks turns a jaded eye towards a world of broken dreams, likening himself on "Vampires" to Holden Caufield's alientated "catcher in the rye".  Jinks assumes the role of a prophet, though he's not out to catch anyone's soul but his own.  Unlike the biblical prophets, he's much better at pointing out what's gone wrong than at heralding an easy solution.  On the stellar "Heavy Load", he warns "The train jumped track some time ago".  With a classic country baritone, Jinks and producer Joshua Thompson build a smart and satisfyingly full sound, with trad fiddle and steel driven hard by a heavy electric band.  The record's title cut takes a hushed, acoustic approach to a personal song of repentance:  "I'm not the devil you think that I am / There ain't no excuse, I'm just a man / I slipped and I fell and got out of hand /  But I'm not the devil you think that I am".  One of the collection's simpler moments, it's arguably among the best country songs of the year.  There are respites to Jinks' dark prophecy, most specifically in the hell-bent-for-asphalt "Chase That Song".  Even here, the driving honky tonk rocker is more of a litany of personal faults and warnings from "a son of a son of an SOB" than a carefree ramble between the white lines.  If there's any salvation on I'm Not the Devil, it might lie in the Saturday Night / Sunday Morning dichotomy that's been inspiring country music since back when it was just called "music".  "Church At Gaylor Creek" harkens to simpler memories of Jinks' childhood, times of church, faith and family.  Even then, the singer warns, "That church was a long time ago / I'm talking distance and years / I'm not certain that I could even get there from here".  Another highlight, "Give All You Can", grants us a hint of hope.  An eloquent, yearning piano ballad, it reveals Jinks as a far more honest and deeply feeling soul than your average cartoon outlaw:  "The dark places I go ain't just on the road / Between the lines, between the pews it's the same".  The chorus relies on a line that he repeats like a mantra:  "You give all you can / Give all you can / When you give all you can, give some more".  With a transcendent, anthemic gospel outtro, it could be the altar call that provides a fleeting balm for the singer's tortured soul.  Cody Jinks is just starting a late Summer, early Fall tour with Whitey Morgan, another worldly, worthy artist on the cusp of the contemporary outlaw movement.  There's a good chance that rowdy crowds will celebrate the arrival of the bearded songwriters with a communion of whiskey and weed.  For those converted by Jinks' music, the morning after could offer a generous amount of food for reflection.

Elsewhere on this Episode, we debut at least a couple more of these Nashville singer-songwriters who have gotten around to releasing their own records.  Kelsey Waldon's 2014 record earned accolades from no less than Rolling Stone, who called her an artist to watch.  Ubiquitous producer Dave Cobb has produced a record for his brother Brent.  We  hear new high profile releases from Reckless Kelly and from Amanda Shires.  And we talk about Paste Magazine's admirable but flawed effort at the Best Alt.Country Albums Ever.

- Cody Jinks, "Mamma Song" Adobe Sessions  (Jinks, 15)
- John Prine w/Iris Dement, "Who's Gonna Take the Garbage Out" For Better or Worse  (Oh Boy, 16)
- Dale Watson, "Sit and Drink and Cry (live)" Live At the Big T Roadhouse  (Red House, 16)
- Parton, Ronstadt & Harris, "Wildflowers (Alt.Take 1986)" Complete Trio Collection  (Rhino, 16)
- Caitlyn Smith, "Tacoma" Starfire  (Skylark, 16)
- Buddy Miller, "My Love Will Follow You" Your Love and Other Lies  (Hightone, 95)
- Tim Easton, "Killing Time" American Fork  (Last Chance, 16)
- Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, "Laid Low" Constant Stranger  (Big Legal Mess, 16)
- BJ Barham, "Unfortunate Kind" Rockingham  (Barham, 16)
- Kelsey Waldon, "All By Myself" I've Got a Way  (Monkey's Eyebrow, 16)  D
- Turnpike Troubadours, "Come As You Are" single  (Single Lock, 16)  D
- John Paul White, "What's So" Beulah  (Single Lock, 16)
- Hiss Golden Messenger, "Biloxi" Heart Like a Levee  (Merge, 16)
- Paper Bird, "Don't Want Half" Paper Bird  (Thirty Tigers, 16)  C
- Reckless Kelly, "How Can You  Love Him (You Don't Even Like Him)" Sunset Motel  (No Big Deal, 16)  D
- Brent Cobb, "Solving Problems" Shine On Rainy Day  (Elektra, 16)  D
- Amanda Shires, "When You're Gone" My Piece of Land  (Shires, 16)  D
- Handsome Family, "Back In My Day" Unseen  (Handsome, 16)
- Lori McKenna, "Bird & the Rifle" Bird & the Rifle  (McKenna, 16)
- Eric Ambel, "Here Come My Love" Lakeside  (Last Chance, 16)  D
- Lydia Loveless, "Same To You" Real  (Bloodshot, 16)
- Luke Winslow-King, "I'm Glad Trouble Don't Last Always" I'm Glad Trouble Don't Last Always  (Bloodshot, 16)  D
- Coal Men, "Depreciate" Pushed To the Side  (Vaskaleedez, 16)  D
- Whitey Morgan, "Hard Scratch Pride" Whitey Morgan & the 78s  (Bloodshot, 10)
^ Cody Jinks, "Give All You Can" I'm Not the Devil  (Jinks, 16)
- Drive-by Truckers, "What It Means" American Band  (ATO, 16)
- Devil Makes Three, "Champagne and Reefer" Redemption & Ruin  (New West, 16)

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