Get Ready to ROCK!’s Pete Feenstra chatted with Jarrod Dickenson for his Sunday feature show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio with tracks from the new album. First broadcast, 1 October 2017
Decca [Release date 29.09.17]
Recorded live to tape in the UK, ‘Ready The Horses’ is an album by the Nashville based, Texan singer songwriter Jarrod Dickenson who isn’t so much a man of contradictions, as a musician following his muse.
‘Ready The Horses’ is a melange of country, soul, blues and Americana with a confessional singer-songwriter bent, that demands focused attention. Dickenson draws us into heartfelt narratives with enough substance to avoid cliché.
Jarrod Dickenson is self evidently a confident singer-songwriter with something to say. From the unabashed opening line of ‘Faint Of Heart’, he draws the listener in on the back of a tremolo laden shuffle which sounds like an old bluesy work song: “No this ain’t for the faint of heart, No You’ve got to be strong, ‘cos it’s bound to go wrong”.
As in the classic opening scene of a film, it’s the power of suggestion that carries us through a cross-genre roots album cemented by real songcraft.
A combination of strong songs with a contrasting vocal vulnerability draws us into an album title that conveys the feeling that we’re being taken on a journey.
He moves from the soulful, bluesy retro feel of ‘Take It From Me’, to the more brusque ‘Gold Rush’, a tale of greed and foreboding on which the clanking percussive backdrop evokes a dark Tom Waits style narrative.
You suspect he’s happiest on the gentle acoustic duet with his wife Claire, ‘Your Heart Belongs To Me’. It’s voiced over a distant pedal steel on a number with lovely contrast. And it’s that balance of contrast and flow, with occasional bv’s and nuanced dynamics that gives the album its punch.
Each track reveals more layers of the onion, as Dickenson explores his song craft through the mood and feel of the music, and lyrical depth that rarely wastes a word.
The single ‘California’ is the perfect example of his craft. The pedal steel-led, meditative piece is the perfect foil for his emotive whispered vocal over a sub-waltz accompaniment, which builds impressively and flows into the hook.
It’s another example of the way the music and lyrics lock together, with occasional layered instrumentation proving an extra dynamic to the songs.
On ‘Way Past Midnight’ the clickety-clack rhythm could be Paul Simon, as it evokes a colourful narrative full of expectation: “This night has just begun, music is playing, the ladies are swaying, gonna dance until the dawn.”
‘In The Meantime’ is full of space and time, and draws us back to his country roots with a soulful horn arrangement. It’ s a well paced, subtly arranged relationship song, on which the sudden emphasis of the piano, organ and bv’s gives it a notable lift, and provides the perfect backdrop for his eloquent phrasing.
The Texas backdrop of ‘A Cowboy & The Moon’ probably narrows his appeal, but there’s no denying the emotional pull of ‘Nothing More’, which is a love song that stands on its own without the need for music labels.
Jarrod Dickenson’s ‘Ready The Horses’ will have immediate appeal to both country and Americana fans, but it’s the quality of the songs that will surely bring him much wider appeal.
He book ends the album with ‘I Won’t Quit’. And when he sings: “There’s still a long tall hill to climb, but I’ll get there in the end”, he leaves us in no doubt that he probably will. ****
Review by Pete Feenstra
Pete Feenstra presents his Rock & Blues Show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Tuesday at 19:00 GMT, and “The Pete Feenstra Feature” on Sundays at 20:00
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