Album Review – Tony Logue’s “Jericho”

Well look at this. The new car smell hasn’t even worn off of 2022 yet, and we already have an entry for what might be one of the better albums of the entire year. Of course, the ultimate conclusion on that won’t come until we see what kind of competition stacks up over the coming months. But what we can confidently deduce at this point is that Tony Logue will be one of 2022’s greatest discoveries for attentive listeners.

Make your way off the main roads, and down the two tracks of rural Western Kentucky where the promises of modern society are left unfulfilled, and the souls haven’t been lifted up by the march of progress, they’ve been abandoned by it, and become refugees of it. It’s a place where earning your daily bread is a dog fight, yet you can’t fathom fleeing due to the familial ties binding you to the land. It’s a place where no matter how far away you run from it, you can never escape it. This is the world of Tony Logue and Jericho.

Tony Logue isn’t new to singing about the rigors of Western Kentucky life, and how they intertwine with the raw geography of the land, and the graphic history of bloodlines. His 2018 acoustic album Serpents and Saviors is a fine showcase of his sharp storytelling mixed with cutting observation. But Jericho ups the ante by pulling out all the stops and assembling the right pieces to help tell his stories in this time and place in music.

Following in the footsteps of fellow Kentuckians Sturgill Simpson and Tyler Childers, Tony Logue released a “Live on Red Barn Radio” session in 2019, and brought engineer Sean Sullivan on board for this album who’s worked with Tyler and Sturgill in the past. Jericho also features Russ Pahl on steel guitar, Tammy Rogers of the SteelDrivers on fiddle, drummer Jason Munday, and Sturgill drummer Miles Miller on harmonies. In other words, all effort was expended to make this a breakout record.

None of this is of consequence though if the songs of Jericho aren’t washed in the blood of the authentic rural American experience, and lucky for Tony Logue and the audience, they most certainly are. Louge doesn’t venture too far afield from the lyrical frames that have proven effective for this style of folk-infused country for others over the last few years. You’ve got the songs of running out of money, running from your past, running down an abusive lover and dumping their body in a river, and even a song about a forbidden love crossing racial borders.

Tony Logue has studied what has ensconced songwriters like Tyler Childers, Chris Knight, and Arlo McKinley in the sky box of roots music in this current era, and he draws from that same well of inspiration, perhaps at a slight risk of originality. But it’s how he is able to bring these experiences to life that results in the immersive buy in by the audience as opposed to being just another Kentucky songwriter braying on about hard times. His song “Welder” about a desperate laborer employs such specificity of detail that it puts you right in the same mood of despair that blurs the line between good and evil, while Tony’s lyrical delivery makes everything that much more believable, and cutting to the bone.

The emotionally roiling moments of this album are also enhanced by the imaginative and moody approach to the music of the album. It remains mostly true to the country roots of the Kentucky region that inspires this music, while Tony Logue’s thick twang grounds it to the setting. But resonant strums of electric guitar chords more concerned with mood than composition, and cracks on kettle drums at critical moments leave one with a lingering chill. Taking words, story, and music, and translating them into visions in the minds of the attuned audience is at the heart of the magic of Jericho.

After 12 songs, it all does become a bit overwrought and emotionally taxing. Even the more uplifting moments of the album still come from the often stern subject matter of religious observance. There are few opportunities to come up for air on Jericho, but little about the execution of this album is worth questioning, while the enveloping listening experience it delivers is exactly what many hardcore listeners are on the hunt for.

It’s no coincidence that Kentucky continues to feed our appetites for authentic country and roots. It’s where the music originally emerged from, and it’s where the right ingredients (for better or worse) still linger where its natives don’t have to engage in cosplay to convince you of their authenticity. They just have to tell the stories of themselves, their family, their neighbors, and their life.

1 3/4 Guns Up (8.5/10)

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