Cody Jinks opens Lifers, his first Rounder Records release, with “Holy Water,” a passionate plea for a taste of holiness, so scarce in our increasingly unholy world. For Jinks, pure country music is as holy as the more strictly spiritual stuff. Also, when he salutes real-deal country folk with the album’s title track, he’s singing as much about himself as them. He’s lifer, and we all benefit
from his artistic commitment.
Jinks certainly knows his way around traditional country forms. The sounds on this album range from “Can’t Quit Enough,” a track that closes out with the sort of instrumental fire we’ve come to expect from Sturgill Simpson’s hotter performances, to the moody border western “Desert Wind.” “Somewhere Between I Love You and I’m Leavin’” is the sort of heart-wrenching ballad George Jones used to excel at. Jinks’ rich singing voice sounds right at home, no matter the sonic setting.
The talented singer/songwriter gets more personal with “Stranger,” which grapples with the mysteries of self-identity, while “Head Case” faces mortality head-on. Whereas many of the songs preceding these two tracks are exercises in stylistic muscle-stretching, both “Stranger” and “Head Case” are instances of sincere heartfelt self-reflection.
If Jinks’ tip of the hat to his heroes with “Lifers" isn’t proof enough, “Can’t Quit Enough” is a rollicking,Haggard-esque workingman blues. It’s a hearty affirmation of Jinks’ artistic identity. Imprisoned lifers, in popular vernacular, are inmates cell-bound against their will. However, Cody Jinks has willfully committed himself to carrying on straight ahead country music’s proud traditions. And right now, there’s no better troubadour carrying that flag.