Album Review – Jayce Turley’s “Broke Down”

photo: Appalachian Exposure

#519 and #570.1 (Appalachian, Folk-inspired Americana) on the Country DDS.

There might be 1,000 guys out there right now singing and writing songs that sound like Tyler Childers and/or Zach Bryan, and maybe Jayce Turley is 1,001. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t show a talent, skill, and depth that belies his young age and that’s all his own, or that he’s not a guy worthy of embracing in the present tense while looking forward to an even brighter and more promising future.

From Greenup County, Kentucky near the nexus of the Ohio and West Virginia borders, Jayce Turley was born and raised in the music that he’s now set out to make as his life’s work. It’s said that by age two, he was attending shows on a regular basis. At the age of six, he was indoctrinated at a bluegrass music camp in Pocahontas County, West Virginia in fiddle and dobro. By the age of 11, he’d picked up the guitar.

All of those elemental roots influences go into this music, but here at the age of 19, it’s a distinctly Appalachian-style singer/songwriter approach that Jayce Turley has embraced. You may say that it reminds you distinctly of Tyler Childers, John R. Miller, and the other contemporaries of this discipline. But appreciate that to someone like Jayce, this is the music he’s been around ever since middle school. It’s like his ’90s country.

Misery, depression, alcohol and substance abuse emerge as central themes in the lyricism of Jayce Turley’s debut album Broke Down. Songs like “Liquor Store” and the title track also show a knack for storytelling, often averting a happy ending, but still still resulting in a good time had by the audience. Maybe you think someone under the legal drinking age isn’t exactly qualified to sing about such inebriated subjects. But then you’ve probably never been to rural Kentucky.

Turley’s vocal delivery is very purposeful and controlled with a high pitch that he likes to stretch between notes like a piece of taffy. It’s almost like Jayce has a steel guitar lever rigged to his throat, perfecting those bends that really squeeze the emotion out of a moment. If anything, Turley could maybe tone down some of the vocal inflections, though it definitely makes him unique and riveting.

Similar to many of the Kentucky/West Virginia songwriters, Jayce Turley’s songs are fleshed out by distinctly country instrumentation by his backing band called Cardinal Point, but with an attitude and approach more akin to folk rock as opposed to country. It’s the song that really commands the attention, and that’s why producer Jason Groves also chose to feature some of the eight songs in a more stripped-down approach.

It’s not just the appeal you will find in Broke Down, it’s the promise of what Turley could be doing in a few years from now if he continues on this accelerated trajectory. What were you doing when you were 19? It probably wasn’t writing songs like the lead single “Rust,” or a rockin’ Appalachia country rock song like “Misery,” or perfecting super sentimental moments like the exquisite duet “These Songs.”

Years ago an up-and-comer like Jayce Turley would be lucky to cause a stir locally in Kentucky. Now this is the sound folks crave all around the United States and beyond. But it’s only native to a few distinct voices. One of those voices is Jayce Turley.


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