Album Review – Jackson Taylor & The Sinners “Bad Juju”

May 2, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  16 Comments

Now this is what I’m talking about.

There may be no artist people have requested more I review over the years than Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. But when I finally got around to opening a line of communication with the band I was told I would have to wait even longer; they had something special coming down the pike. Jackson Taylor had just jettisoned his management and stripped his band down to a 3 piece, and had something new and wild in store. That new, wild something turned out to be Bad Juju.

This fiery, unfettered, full tilt assault on country music strikes that perfect chord of being both inescapably familiar yet remarkably fresh. Johnny Cash on cocaine may be the most appropriate description. More Memphis than Nashville, more madness than melancholy. But moreover, Bad Juju is just one hell of a good time.

This is fun music in the truest sense of the term. You don’t conjure up Bad Juju to commiserate with your pain, you conjure it up to forget about it. Jackson Taylor & The Sinners found their mojo by stripping it back to the simplest of lineups: Acoustic guitar and vocals, lead guitar, and drums. And when they found that mojo, they stuck with it, refined it, worked at it until it was perfect and its power both undeniable and universal on the human body.

The reason this album is so enjoyable is because the enjoyment Jackson Taylor & The Sinners have playing this music is so obvious and infectious. They recorded this album live in all of three short days, no overdubs, no over-thinking, boom! This is what you get, just what you’ll see live, no apologies, no over-production, just the raw Juju in your face and unapologetic.

And when they realized what magic they had found, they couldn’t help but give this stripped down treatment to other people’s songs. Frequent readers of Saving Country Music may know I care little for cover songs, especially familiar cover songs, and how much more familiar can you get than Elvis’s “That’s Alright Mama” or Johnny Cash’s “Stripes”? But where The Sinners’ sin is forgiven is in the amazing, energetic, and fun treatment they give these songs, and how they intermingle them with their originals with energy and attitude to their approach.

With such a stripped down lineup, dynamics were the key to making these song arrangements shine. Take Willie Nelson’s “It’s Not Supposed To Be That Way”. The sinners on this song go from barely even playing, to blazing out this sweet ballad like its hair was on fire. The dynamics they employ and the way each player is able to work in such unison with the feel of the song and each other is what makes this album something special.

Austin “Slate” Garret’s amazing guitar work is like the nose tackle in a 3/4 football defense charged with filling a tremendous gap in such a small lineup. He pulls it off brilliantly without overplaying or relying on tricks or effects. Jackson Taylor’s voice can go from screaming to sweet in a heartbeat, and gets your heart beating by the emotions he brings out in these songs. Brandon Burke may have the hardest task of all, keeping up with these two monsters and holding together compositions that sometimes go from genteel to explosive in a single phrase.

My concerns about this album are few. Could they put out half a dozen albums with this lineup and the approach hold up? Probably not. That’s what’s so great about this album though, it is absolutely perfect for this time in music, with this band, with these songs, right now. The whole Memphis/Cash thing continues to be hot, yet at the same time Jackson Taylor is able to clearly delineate himself from the herd with this approach and attitude.

Ideally I would want to see more depth from the songwriting. Amongst originals like “Cocaine”, “Whiskey”, “Humboldt County Grown”, there’s not many songs that speak deep to the cerebral cortex. But in the context of this approach, mushy crap would just be in the way, dragging down this album. Jackson Taylor and the Sinners get a pass from being branded with the “Whiskey, Devil, Cocaine” parody tag by simply having so much fun with this album. They never take themselves too seriously. In fact there’s some dialogue embedded in this album (I won’t give away the punch line) that as gratuitous and immature as it is, shows the light side and ribald sense of humor this music is approached with.

The last little nit pick is the lack of low end here without a bass guitar. It comes across as a little difficult on the ear, especially at first because you’re used to the bass notes being there in this style of music. Along those same lines, long-time fans of Jackson Taylor will notice that despite 7 of the 10 songs being originals, some of the songs have been previously released. So if you’re familiar with these songs, it may cause old version/new version conflict in your music brain. But in the end, no concerns I had for this album were able to mitigate any of its strengths.

Please understand, this is not a family album (despite what Jackson Taylor may say jokingly on one of the tracks), this is for mommy and daddy time, for the hellraisers and hellbillies out there. But the balls out approach is something everyone will find infectious, and just plain fun.

Two guns up!

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16 Comments to “Album Review – Jackson Taylor & The Sinners “Bad Juju””

  • Can’t wait to pick this one up… His last album, “Let The Bad Times Roll” was killer too. I’m stoked to finally get to catch one of his shows when he comes to Idaho this weekend.


  • Yea Id always wondered why there had been hardly any mentioning (if any) on here of him…glad to finally see a review!

    Been a fan of Jackson Taylor ever since his Aces ‘N’ Eights record. Awesome sounding stuff!


  • Trig, I’ve respected your opinions for a while now. I agree with at least 90% of your reviews and if you say it’s good than I usually think it is too. But today you earned even more respect from me. You made a football reference in your review. That’s awesome. Keep it up man.


    • I’m just glad somebody got it! Pretty obscure reference to tell the truth.


  • Been a fan of these guys for a while. They just seem be having a hell of a good time, and that’s infectious. This outlaw country, hellbilly, whathaveyou style of music needs more guys like Jackson that don’t themselves too seriously.


    • That’s where they really won me over, is by not taking themselves too seriously. I think there’s some bands that can learn from that. Don’t tell me how badass you are, prove it.


      • Exactly.

        PS – Sorry for the typos in that first post. Holy shit.


  • I’ve enjoyed all Jackson Taylor’s albums as well as their onstage energy. I actually didn’t realize they had a new album out yet. Glad to see you finally cover these guys because I really feel they relate more to the readers and bands you usually cover as compared to the “Red Dirt” genre whatever they usually fit in.


  • Jackson is a great live performer and the records have turned out good especially this one but seeing him live is the best way to appreciate what he does.


  • ”The Greatest Honky Tonk Band in The Fucking Universe” haha that the kind of attitude I like. Great review man. Definetely a band that i need to check out


  • I normally don’t agree with reviews of my
    Music unless the are positive so I agree with this one.
    I agree with what he said about us being the greatest band ever and like he stated on line three that I am the absolute greatest from man in all music ever since time began. I would normally be uncomfortable with this much praise but I can’t argue with facts.
    ;) all joking aside thank you for the kind words. We did have a blast making this CD and even more fun playing these songs everynight. :)


  • I am so glad Jack and the boys have made it SCM. These guys are as real as it gets. They can’t be truly appreciated unless you see them live. Jack is a madman in concert in the best way possible. They love their fans and will hang out take pics and shake hands until the last person is gone. They are by far my favorite band of all time and I am thankful to call them friends. Thank you Triggerman for this review.


  • The first time I heard them live was at an acoustic show in Mulvane, Ks. It was just Jackson, a shot or 20 of whiskey, his guitar and no set list. It scared the hell outta me. And I loved every second of it.


  • Jackson and the Sinners are as real as it gets. He’s been doing it a long while and like very few, getting better as he goes, although he is stipping it down as he goes. .
    Check out albums, “Let the Bad Times Roll”, “Whiskey Sessions” and “Dark Days”. Quality in each but also you see the maturity and quality of music grow.

    Someone wants to really save country music today, actual country music, musicfests full of a variety of folk bands, punk country, metal country, and just bands with no idea who they are isn’t going to do it.

    Someone should pull a musicfest together that makes a few stops around the country with:
    Jackson Taylor and the Sinners
    Hellbound Glory
    Lukas Nelson and Promise Of The Real
    Shooter Jennings
    Jamey Johnson
    Whitey Morgan and The 78’s
    Jason Boland and The Stragglers

    ….leave the rest at home for now. Let these guys meet and hang out and see what relationships and music grow from it. My opinion, they can’t get out of each others way and it is a disaster, or in 3years the ACM/CMA’s and landscape of country look way different.

    Maybe invite Eric Church and Justin Moore on board just so they can see the difference in what they do and what these bands do first hand. Would love to see them try and follow any of these guys….or try and drink a little drink and smoke a little smoke with any of these guys. Chruch would be crying for his mama.


  • We’ve actually played with everyone on that list but lukas Nelson. My personal faves were whitey and the boys. Hopefully all our paths will cross again soon


  • Jackson Taylor is hooking up with Whitey Morgan to tour this spring/summer! What a pairing.

    Also heard Jackson is doing a “documentary” type project with the local/regional/road dog bands around the country about how country music got to where it is today…leaving all the true country artists behind.

    Anyone heard anything about this?


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