The Jackstones – Love Badly
The strum of a bright electric guitar guides us with ease into a grinding organ that echoes off into the distance and sets the stage for singer Andy Machin to some of his trademark dispatch some poignant, earthy vocals over the beat in “Cruise” the opening track from The Jackstones’ much anticipated new album Love Badly, a follow up their 2014 full length debut What Brings You Here. “Cruise” lives up to its name, taking us contently sailing down a country highway with nothing in front of us but open road and all of the optimism that the endless horizon offers us. It’s a heart racing primer for the affectionate power ballad “Every Apple Does Get Bitten Eventually,” a song that starts off deceptively slow before blossoming into a full on orchestral assault on the pale drabness of contemporary country/rock music. “Love Badly” kicks the tempo back up to the club setting and dispatches a fun loving groove that is guaranteed to get even the most committed of wallflowers out of the dark corners and onto the dancefloor for what is certain to be a good time. The first quarter of Love Badly offers some really excellent guitar work from the dueling Machin and Rick Lorenzini, but “Obstacle Course” is where we first start to realize just how talented The Jackstones are with a pair of six strings within their reach.
The amplifier carnage continues into “Rotation,” a sly little number that demonstrates an adoration of heartland rock not previously revealed by The Jackstones. It’s only a brief departure from the undeniably bluesy backbone of Love Badly though, which experiences an explosive climax in “Dirty Stuff,” which ended up being my favorite song from the album. The second half of the record opens up with “Your Secret’s Safe,” which pays homage to the band’s subtle debt to the jangle rock sound of Midwestern 80’s proto alternative rock bands like The Replacements, Green Pajamas and Marginalized Cowboys (none whose names you would normally presume to find in the review of a new country album). The folky “Ball of Thread” transitions into the elegiac “Crawl” like a two part epic, while “Cowboy Life” reels Love Badly back into album rock territory with the most straight forward arrangement on the record.
By the time we start to wrap things up and the cutting glare of amplifier feedback ushers “Sounds Like Chains” into full color, the gravity of what we’ve just listened to starts to really sink in. Love Badly is an anti-insular, multi-layered album that is one part reckless country rock record and another part triumphant pop crossover. I’m not going to say that this is the best work that The Jackstones are capable of producing only because I feel like this symbolizes a transitional period for a band that is well on their way to taking over the charts, but what I can say is that this is a record that holds its own creatively and rhythmically, and that you would be hard pressed to find any country band that is making as thought provoking music as what can be found on Love Badly. Getting to write about this record was undeniably a privilege, but honestly, it’s knowing that this band has got so much love to give their listeners that is really the most exciting thing about The Jackstones and their irresistibly groovy body of work.