The five song EP from The Cavalry, a one man musical project showcasing the talents of all-around artistic force Tristan Jackson, will likely rate for many as one of the more exciting musical offerings to come out of Nashville in recent years. It is working quite completely in the comparatively new tradition of Nashville Rock, but naturally leans much more to the pop side of things than serving up street-hard rock tracks full of thunder, heartache, and darkness. Listeners will not conclude a pass through Build Your Own Empire’s songs and feel deflated but enriched; instead, The Cavalry aims to provide a substantive musical experience while still supremely entertaining his audience. His production collaborators help present the songwriting on this EP from the best possible stage; there isn’t one aspect of this release isn’t sonically on the same page and the treatment escapes self-indulgence in the same way that the music does. There isn’t a single wasted note here and the songs maintain a laser focus throughout.
Build Your Own Empire opens with “JFK Intro”, a brief but musically rewarding song that uses a voice over recording of a President Kennedy speech as the focus point for a surrounding melodic cavalcade. The piano is the composition’s musical hinge and every good thing that’s part of the song hinges on how it affects the listener. The second track “Don’t Mean You’re Gone” has an assortment of customary songwriting poses for the genre along with some fiery and beautiful playing from a variety of instruments. There’s much going on during the track, but it never sounds dense or bogs down under any clutter.
The second track, “Wake Up Call”, is an orchestral-themed ballad and the only such song included on Build Your Own Empire. Jackson proves himself just as capable of handling this material as he does the more boisterous numbers and showing the same emotional command over the track as he does on the rowdier numbers. “When the Radio’s Gone” has the strongest commercial edge yet of any song on Build Your Own Empire and follows the EP’s successful template closer and with more results than any song preceding it. The deliberateness of the verses and introduction shifts into another gear on the chorus as Jackson spikes the tempo. It’s one of the EP’s most effective performances.
The finale “Red, White, and Blue Jeans” closely follows the same path laid out by “When the Radio’s Gone” while still adding a new flavor to the EP’s sonic palette. This is anthemic, but it has much stronger rock confidence than the earlier songs. Build Your Own Empire has impressive musical force that manifests itself in a variety of ways while never forsaking its melodic virtues. Tristan Jackson’s The Cavalry has promise that goes far beyond the normal reach of typical Nashville Rock acts and its first release offers countless hints of fulfilled promise to come.
9 out of 10 stars.