Traditional country music has been buried by cynics more times than anyone can count. Some cynics have thrown dirt on traditional country because it’s not what is played on the radio anymore. Fear not. Old-time country is alive and well, and all the proof you need is Western Gold (recorded at Sputnik Studio and produced by Vance Powell), the new album from Gethen Jenkins.
Jenkins grabs your attention right away with the opening track “Bottle in My Hand”. The rhythm section makes it practically impossible to remain still. Of course the piano and the guitar play their part in getting you moving too. It is an uptempo honky-tonk song reminiscent of Waylon Jennings that is made for getting couples moving on a dance floor.
It’s hard not to hear the spirit of Merle Haggard in “It’s Heartache Time” – especially when you hear Jenkins sing, “I can’t feel my heart. I can’t find my mind.” That’s not the only sad song on the album, which is a good thing because he shows a real aptitude for the sad songs. “Whiskey Bound” is a great example. This is a ballad about using whiskey to chase troubles away. The pedal steel is fittingly lonesome for the melody and the backing vocals provide some real power to the song. “Waiting” is another good sad song about getting past relationship troubles. It is most certainly a country song, but a fair amount of rock is injected into the guitar and the beat during the chorus.
With songs about drinking and heartache, Jenkins certainly covers some of the big themes in country music. He covers another big theme in “Restless Ways”. This is a rocking honky-tonk tune about life on the road. Specifically, he sings, “I can’t seem to find the end of my restless ways” – a sentiment that is easily relatable and not just for musicians. The instrumental break is really what ties this song together. It features some psychedelic guitar and some soulful organ that makes it impossible to remain still.
Likewise “Basket Case” is a song that incorporates some significant rock sounds. The piano part in this song is pure honky-tonk goodness, but the guitar part is rock and roll. This isn’t a song to get couples two-stepping on the dance floor. This is a song to get people into an all-out boogie on the dance floor. In fact if you see this song performed live, you can probably expect the audience to take a little breather after dancing to this one.
This is a strong debut album. Jenkins has clearly put a lot of time into listening to classic country. He shows real skill not only in uptempo foot-stompers, but also in pensive sad songs. Western Gold will be available everywhere on July 26. Order your copy here.