Enough messing around with 2nd tier overly-sentimental singer/songwriters, or squinting at some band of 20-somethings from the suburbs trying to make themselves out to be the second coming of Lynyrd Skynyrd. If you want to sit down in a groove of Southern roots music goodness that doesn’t eschew the importance of quality songwriting, then you did right by screwing off at work or forgoing fetching the Christmas stuff out of the attic or basement to sniff around Saving Country Music.
As good as Kentucky has been over the last few years birthing great music, apparently it’s still been holding out on us, at least when it comes to Jordan Allen and the Bellwethers. Commissioned in May of 2013, the five-piece outfit is now on their third record, and it’s a doozy of delectable rhythm/melody combinations that will remind you of the best of The Allman Brothers, intermingled with songwriting akin to that of the Americana stalwarts, and just a splash of Heartland rock to keep it all open and accessible.
Jordan Allen and the Bellwethers are easy to love, and so is their new record. Jenny’s not a lady—or at least, not in the way she’s referenced in the title of this album, Give My Love to Jenny. It’s in tribute to Jenny Wiley State Park, just outside of the town of Prestonsburg, Kentucky where this album was recorded. Claiming to be based between “southeastern and south central Kentucky,” there’s certainly a lot of Kentucky in the sound of this outfit, but the appeal will range well beyond the borders of the Bluegrass State.
Make yourself familiar with the opening song “Midnight Plane,” and your ears will immediately perk up to the full-bodied sound that comes with a five-piece band, and specifically this one that makes use of cello for a unique sound. The band’s self-described classification of “Alt-Country/Indie-Folk” feels a bit clunky. Just consider it Southern rock, with the latitude to slip in a few country songs, like they do with the road-weary “On My Way Back to You,” and the steel-guitar-laden and smartly-written “Hearts Break All The Time.”
Give My Love to Jenny also includes a dead ringer of a songwriter’s song in “Waiting To Be Born.” Not an entirely new concept, but one never rendered in song like this, Jordan Allen pairs up with Nicholas Jamerson of the Kentucky duo Sundy Best and a string arrangement to turn in a really spectacular tune about the nature of life, and life after death.
But what you come for, and the reason you stick around is the the groove-based and guitar-driven Southern rock epicness with just a splash of soul, just like the stuff found on the final song of the album called “Fly.” It’s another collaboration that features a Kentucky singer and guitarist in Wes Smith. This is the kind of stuff that reminds you of all the great Southern music in the past that today’s renderings and reenactments rarely live up to. This one does.
A sort of part-time band with a full-time frontman whose sole purpose in life is writing songs, Jordan Allen and the Bellwethers pull out all the stops and make a record they can be proud of and that will withstand the test of time, and hopefully makes a mark not just in eastern Kentucky, but on the national map.
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