Album Review – The Ben Jarrell Band’s “Up and Headed West”
I don’t know how it was around your neck of the woods, but around here, when Ben Jarrell released his album Troubled Times in 2019, we were all slapping our thighs, high-fiving each other, calling up our redneck cousins and telling them they’ve got to hear this stuff, driving 175 miles to see him perform in some podunk bar with seven other people, and a losing our collective country music minds over it. It was full tilt funky country goodness served with a side of skillet gravy and preserves, and there are still people around here who won’t shut up about how Ben’s conspiratorial song “Black Helicopter” is one of the funnest country songs released in years.
Well steel yourself for a very similar experience with his new(ish) album Up and Headed West. Once again chock full of half-time Waylon beats, Jerry Reed hot licks, with a touch of Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd influence as well, it’s the kind of 70’s cool a lot of the hipster kids in country music try to emulate these days, but colossally fail at when compared side by side to what The Ben Jarrell Band is throwing down here.
So the one question you might be asking right now is, how the hell did a Ben Jarrell album released in 2021 slip under our radar until now? I knew he had a new album on the way, and even seen he’d released a couple of singles. But at some point, lines of communication broke down. It didn’t help that the new album was released as “The Ben Jarrell Band” as opposed to just Ben’s name, but there is also something strange with the metadata where are the tracks pull up under the band name on streaming services, but the album itself pulls up under his personal name.
I’d gone actively searching for this album before and didn’t find it. That’s is the deal when it comes to independent and underground country artists that don’t have labels, and don’t have big-time managers or publicists to push them. Sometimes you have to dig. But I’ll be honest, I spit the bit on this one. As your country music sherpa, I should’ve figured out where this album lived and alerted you earlier. But here we are right now, and luckily, I don’t have to lie about how good it is to make up for the lost time, because Up and Headed West really is that lights out.
Few if any performers know how to set the exact right tempo, match it up with guitar tone, and stick the groove like Ben Jarrell does, and in a way that does right by the mood a song needs to set, dictated by the lyrics. Jarrell is the master of this, while the songwriting itself is superior and incisive as well, yet still remains endearingly folksy. And there’s a reason Jarrell decided to put this album under the heading “The Ben Jarrell Band,” because the drums, bass, guitar, and steel, it’s all seamless, shepherded by producer Brett Robinson, who is also known as the steel guitar player for Whitey Morgan and the 78’s.
The songs “Wheels” and “Bald Tires” are textbook examples of what I’m talking about here. Then he drops a song on you like “Jack of Clubs” that gives you all kinds of Allman Bros. blues vibes behind a deftly-written lyrical hook. Even more impressively written is the devastating “Chevrolet’s and Angels” co-written/inspired by Weston Williams, which will get you sniffling and blaming seasonal allergies. And if you’re looking for that song that will give Ben Jarrell’s previous “hit” “Black Helicopter” a run for its money with those smooth half-time tempo changes and hilarious lyricism, “Trucker and the UFO” recorded previously by Joe Kuckla will be right up your alley.
Even more impressive, in this era of give up album covers, Ben Jarrell even goes the extra mile there, creating a diorama just like he did for 2019’s Troubled Times, this time of a sand swept Western town baked in the red of dawn or sunset. You can tell Ben Jarrell expended every effort to make this record right. It’s just a shame so few folks know it’s out there.
Originally from Dothan, Alabama with an absentee mother and a father in prison, Ben Jarrell has lived the life that lends to hardscrabble country songs and brokenhearted recollections. But it’s the way he gets those songs sounding so good that separates him from the herd, and makes it scandalous that he’s gone so overlooked so far in his career.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8.5/10)
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Purchase from Ben Jarrell
April 12, 2022 @ 8:26 am
Kind of sounds like Merle.
April 12, 2022 @ 3:57 pm
April 12, 2022 @ 8:38 am
This will probably sound crazy to a lot of people, but I actually heard about this album but sat this one out because the vinyl shipped from his web site is over $40. I own the first album on vinyl and like it well enough, but I just couldn’t justify spending that.
I guess this is a reminder I should listen to it on streaming at least once.
April 12, 2022 @ 9:03 am
Appreciate the review a lot Trig.
AltCountryFanatic: the only one that was supposed to be ( $40 plus shipping ) was a signed copy during the pre-order and initial release phase. Must’ve have been a mistake on our end somewhere.
Email us and I’ll send you a free signed copy.
Apologies for the confusion.
Nicolas De Vos
April 12, 2022 @ 9:29 am
Can I email you and buy test pressing copies of your two masterpieces? 😅
I can try, right?
April 12, 2022 @ 9:46 am
Ben Jarrell – What a stand up reply and gesture reaching out to AltCountryFanatic. Props to you, brother. First time I’ve heard of you and your music ( thanks, as always, Trig). Really dig it. Good luck out there.
April 12, 2022 @ 10:14 am
Nice reply and offer, but there is no need to send me a free copy. I don’t mind paying for a record.
On the web site, the version that is not signed is indeed $30, with the signed version being $40. When I say “shipped” I mean that after $10.65 shipping the regular version comes out to $40.65 shipped.
I know smaller vinyl runs are expensive, but if the regular version was $30 with free shipping or maybe even media mail $4 shipping I probably would have pulled the trigger. I don’t want to tell you how to run your business, just providing my personal feedback.
April 12, 2022 @ 1:14 pm
Ask, and you shall receive!
I still had the web site up from when I quoted this price earlier, and now I see that the price of the regular vinyl dropped from $30 to $20, making it $30 shipped.
I purchased one, just as I said I would. Can’t wait to give it a spin!
Just wanted to highlight this for other folks who are considering the vinyl and to show how responsive to feedback Ben and his team were.
April 12, 2022 @ 1:35 pm
I just ordered a signed copy and with shipping it was $50. A little pricey for a physical copy, but with it being signed, I’m good with it. Shit, I’ve bought doubles of vinyls at shows so I can get signed copies in my collection. At that point I’m paying $50+. Just for reference, I pre-ordered the last Mike and the Moonpies signed vinyl for about that price, and a copy just sold on Discogs for $250.
Thanks Trig for the find on this one. I don’t do too many country type records (lots of bluegrass), but it will sit nice next to my Whitey Morgans, Jesse Daniels, and few others.
April 12, 2022 @ 1:49 pm
Nice! I also always buy the deluxe editions of Mike and the Moonpies albums, as they are my favorite band right now – until Turnpike releases another album.
I buy so much vinyl that price starts to become a factor for me unless it is from a band that I am a manic fan of. I can’t own everything, so I sometimes have to make hard decisions about what to buy and what to skip.
April 12, 2022 @ 4:20 pm
Take the free signed copy! Ben offered. In this world, wins like this don’t come often. I’m sure you’ll repay buy purchasing concert tickets!
April 12, 2022 @ 9:29 am
Ben Jarrell, where have you been all our lives?
You Waylon’s lost kin?
Dang son – You kill it on Trucker and the UFO.
& Who plays that growly guitar on that song? Straight up, vertical sex.
April 12, 2022 @ 10:47 am
Sounds great Ben Jarrel
Jack Daniels, If You Please, Knock Me To My Knees
April 12, 2022 @ 11:05 am
Looks like a promising album. Might have to check it out.
April 12, 2022 @ 12:33 pm
This guy absolutely rips. Holy hell these two albums are so good. I’m in shock. It has everything: great writing, very country, rock edge, thanks so much for reviewing this Trig, definitely going to be a favorite.
Similar to the october 2021 jeremy pinnell album, which rips super hard as well
April 13, 2022 @ 12:18 am
I love the dedication to letting the world know how much Pinnell rips. As someone who has had that album on repeat since October, I whole-heartedly agree with the amount of rippage!
April 12, 2022 @ 12:38 pm
Who plays steel on Chevrolets and angels? Dang good song.
April 12, 2022 @ 7:17 pm
April 12, 2022 @ 12:42 pm
I managed to catch Ben and the boys live a coupla years back at Nashville Palace. Hes good. Pedal steel caught my attention for sure. His band was tight, vocals decent. I remember talking to Jammin James Riley about them and he said Ben is the real deal, definite Outlaw influences in his sound. I had to agree. Now, if he would play some live shows, more folks would get the opportunity to see it for themselves.
April 12, 2022 @ 1:54 pm
WTF is this? Can’t quite put my finger on it…..sounds like….actual country music.
Look forward to hearing more.
April 12, 2022 @ 2:57 pm
Whoa, I was a fan of the debut and was patiently waiting for the sophomore album. How did I completely miss this? Came out last summer?
April 12, 2022 @ 3:31 pm
Thank you, Trigger, for this excellent review. I loved “Troubled Times” and I absolutely need to listen to this new record. How could I miss it? With Ben Jarrell and Whitey Morgan’s steel guitar player, I can’t be disappointed. I won’t wait a lot to check it out.
April 12, 2022 @ 5:11 pm
I couldn’t find the fucker right now. After only finding two singles, I searched by the album name and got the whole album. I’ll listen and re-read your review tomorrow.
Who was the HUGE fan SCM commenter? JP-Chicago?
April 12, 2022 @ 8:31 pm
Was and still am a HUGE fan……….I’m still kind of shocked right now as I’d pre ordered and have been listening to this album for months. Nobody on here even mentioned it?? I got kind of worried that I was the only one that liked it, and I didn’t wanna be the “hey Trig you gonna review this?” guy. I’m glad I’m not. I just love the simplicity of this record, it’s bare bones real. Not Troubled Times 2, different but just as good. The man hand wrote out the lyrics to Black Helicopter for me. They’re still on my office wall with poster and vinyl. Coolest guy you’d ever want to meet and chat with as well. Heck Whitey will be here Saturday and I wish Ben and his band was with him again.
April 13, 2022 @ 6:05 am
I remember you commented he gave you the hand written lyrics to “Black Helicopter” awhile back and thought that it was so damn cool! I will definitely try to catch a Ben Jarrell show. It seems he does his fans right.
April 12, 2022 @ 5:30 pm
Trig, you aware that this site is passing of your review as their own?
April 12, 2022 @ 8:28 pm
Dude, if ya’ll knew how much I get ripped off, and all the effort that has gone into trying to get it to stop, it would blow your mind.
Thanks for the heads up.
April 12, 2022 @ 7:28 pm
I knew Weston Williams, he was a cowboy from my hometown of Okeechobee, Florida. Before he moved to Nashville he used to come to my Monday bible study class. He was always writing songs. When he passed away it hit me like a ton of bricks, he was just a really good dude. All he wanted was to be a singer songwriter in Nashville.
April 12, 2022 @ 8:20 pm
Hey there! We moved “Up and Headed West” to the Ben Jarrell account on Spotify and other streaming platforms a few days ago. You’ll also find the previous two albums under that account as well. I hope that clears up any confusion.
April 13, 2022 @ 9:47 am
Ben Jarrel can I trade you an oz of smoke for an album? I live in Northern CA and it’s been a rough year for everyone.
April 13, 2022 @ 1:34 pm
Thank you Trigger. One reason I am a dedicated reader of this website is the numerous artists you have steered me toward. This was outstanding and will be ordering this album.
April 14, 2022 @ 6:45 am
Been listening to this since it’s release, but I also had difficulty locating the album on Apple Music initially. When I searched for Ben Jarrell it would only bring up the first album. I eventually found it though through a link on their Instagram page. Not sure if the linking issues have been cleared up, but have really enjoyed the album.
April 19, 2022 @ 12:35 pm
Can personally vouch for Ben’s graciousness. Muddy Roots was pussyfooting on sending me his last album so I was forced to reach out directly. Not only did he send me a copy for free, he sent an autographed handbill along with it. That’s how its done.
July 25, 2022 @ 4:55 am
I know this is super late. But did they remove this album from streaming services? I can’t find it on Amazon or Apple Music, Itunes
July 25, 2022 @ 7:39 am
As I said in the review, the metadata on this is super screwy. I was just able to pull it up on both Apple Music and Spotify under his personal name “Ben Jarrell” , but the album comes up, not the individual tracks in listings. Don’t want to mislead someone and say something that is not correct. But if you dig, you can find it, even though when I initially went searching for it, I couldn’t find it either.
July 25, 2022 @ 8:06 am
Ok I didn’t reread the review before posting so that prob would have helped. It’s wierd because I went looking for this album for months using his name and adding band but only his previous album popped up. I even typed in the name of the album and nothing. Oddly after I posted this I went looking for it there it was plain as day like it’s always been there. Wierd. Sorry about that and appreciate the help