2018 Will Be The Year of Cody Jinks in Country

photo: Brad Coolidge

It’s time. It’s time for Cody Jinks.

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Here we are the day after the 2018 Grammy Awards and a few days shy of February, and though you may have not filed your taxes yet or finished getting all of that remaining Christmas crap back into the attic, we’re finally able to tie a nice, tidy bow around 2017 in the country music department.

Jason Isbell won big at the Grammy Awards in the Americana realm with his recent effort The Nashville Sound, Chris Stapleton remains the king of the mainstream with a 3 for 3 sweep of the awards he was nominated for including Best Country Album. And we’re still trying to properly digest what happened on Saturday Night Live the night before between Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson. All the end-of-year lists and critic’s polls have been published, with Margo Price and Tyler Childers faring quite well. And it’s only fair to recognize how Aaron Watson stretched the boundaries for an independent artist on radio in 2017 more than ever before.

It all sets up for what could be a very positive 2018 in country music, and there’s already a lot to look forward to, in both the short and long term. One of the best albums of the year may have already been released in the form of Caitlyn Smith’s Starfire. It’s so good it would be criminal to overlook. If you’re looking for a band like Midland without all the baggage, Mike and the Moonpies release their latest record Steak Night at the Prairie Rose on February 2nd that should finally get them out of the shadows, and into the more national perspective they deserve. Whitey Morgan is supposed to have a new album on the way, and we’ve been waiting patiently for the long-rumored Ben Haggard debut project that could emerge in 2018. And there’s always something unexpected lurking out there from a new artist we’ve never heard of, like Zephaniah OHora showed us in 2017, and Dori Freeman the year before.

But in many respects, this all feels like the setup, and the window dressing for what might be the biggest moment in real, true, independent country music in 2018, which will be the release of the latest album from Cody Jinks.

It’s not that we have any reason to believe the new Cody Jinks record will be something incredibly groundbreaking or out of this world. The truth is Cody Jinks has been releasing stellar records for years now—it’s his consistency that has been groundbreaking. The only question for his core fans is if the new record will be any better than his best. The thing keeping Cody from becoming one of those Mt. Rushmore names in the alternative to country music’s mainstream has never been the quality of the music, it’s simply been the name recognition and the national consciousness awaking to what it has in its midst with Cody.

It’s often talked about how Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, and Jason Isbell make imperfect country music “saviors” for true country fans to get behind 100%. First off, it’s not fair to label any artist a “savior,” including Cody Jinks. That’s an unfair burden, and not even really a distinction for the present tense to decide. Performers just need to do their jobs as artists and write, record, and perform the best music they can and let the cards fall where they may.

But it’s true, from a real country music perspective, Jason Isbell is way more Americana, Sturgill Simpson has veered away from his country roots, and Chris Stapleton is more of a rootsy R&B singer in a country hat. Not to take anything away from any of these guys. For some listeners, that’s exactly what they’re looking for. Too often in the emotional realm of fandom, folks make way too much of the fallible nature of artists, and dramatically overlook their positive attributes and contributions when they should be happy that artists like Stapleton, Isbell, and Sturgill are getting so much of the attention as opposed to Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, and Jason Aldean.

But that’s the thing about Cody Jinks. Cody hasn’t spent his career slowly drifting away from his roots. He’s spent his career re-affirming them, grasping them tighter, and doubling down on a traditional country sound. Cody Jinks has those same songwriting qualities as those other top tier songwriters and performers in the business, a voice and sound that resonates deep and wide among country music fans traditional and otherwise, but even more so, he’s got no compromise.

The other thing Cody Jinks has is a plan, and a fan base. When Saving Country Music declared that 2013 would be the year of Sturgill Simpson, he was still a virtual unknown. Cody Jinks is already one of the biggest artists in independent country, able to sell out consecutive nights at the Ryman, and sell over 67,000 copies of his last record with no label. Yet still it’s like nobody is paying attention. Jinks has gotten so big, he’s having to turn down headliner spots at festivals like Tumbleweed, while he’s getting booked in prime spots at mega festivals like Stagecoach.

Maybe it’s because he’s from Texas and out of the purview of country music’s media apparatus in Nashville, or maybe it’s because the Cody Jinks strategy from the very beginning has been to put the fans first and let the media figure it out later. But even with the big and fervent fan base Cody Jinks enjoys already, his upside potential remains incredible, because the appetite for true country music has never been greater. If there’s any concern, it’s how Cody’s loyal fan base will react to more passive fans joining its ranks, making sure to understand that Cody Jinks needs to be theirs to share, and that elbow room may start to become a commodity at his shows very soon, and not just in Cody’s favorite markets.

Cody Jinks will release a new record in 2018. It will be named Lifers and it will be delivered in “no later than June.” And we also know it will be Cody Jinks, because that is who he is, and what he does.

And Cody Jinks isn’t perfect either. No human is. In fact that’s one of the underlying themes in Cody’s music. Some find him a little droning, and that’s okay. But he’s also not polarizing. Even if you can’t get behind Cody Jinks, there’s no need to shout him down. He’s never stubbed your toes, broken your heart, had you embarrassed you bought that fan tattoo for your left bicep.

Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Aaron Watson, Jamey Johnson, Hank3, and others helped create a new appetite for true country, and helped open doors for an artist with no compromise in their sound to walk through them. It just happens to be that in 2018, that door is open wider than ever, and right as Cody Jinks is hitting his stride.

Watch out.