Raleigh, North Carolina’s Jack the Radio are a familiar, yet unique entry into the Americana rock scene. To native blues and pop influences are added electronic flourishes, western, and good old rock and roll. Badlands, their 12-track newest release, was recorded over a three-year period, what with the busy schedule of its five members: A.C. Hill (acoustic guitar, vocals), George Hage (lead guitar, vocals), Danny Johnson (lap steel, baritone guitar, keys, vocals), Chris Sayles (bass, vocals), and Brent Francese (drums).
There are a lot of stylistic shifts throughout the album. What brings it all together is a strong attention to detail and a country vibe that ebbs and flows around other influences that make their way into the tracks. The rock number “Bad Man” provides a dramatic opening courtesy of simple horns, intense drums, and a strong guitar line. An organ adds to the moodiness of the track which, despite its dark side, remains always triumphant. Upbeat and intense, the rock-heavy “The Runaway” would make for a great addition to any car chase scene.
Some of the guitar layers in the groovy “Ain’t So Bad” are made somewhat hazy, contrasting with the soulful vocals. In contrast, the melodious, moody, smooth, and groovy “The Takedown” combines a country feel with pop vibes reminiscent of the 1980s, albeit much more modern. Jack the Radio travels into the future with “Leaves,” which sounds at times a little like a 1990s grunge-inspired ballad, bringing in at the same time some electronic vibes, making this ear worm unique and attention-grabbing.
The Americana/country-inspired guitar that opens up the uptempo “My Way” is tempered with a pop vibe and given an edge with a blues-inspired guitar line and gospel-like choir. The boisterous “City Slippin’” seems to bring together most of the ingredients that composed its Badlands siblings, from horns to bluesy guitars to strong drums and an overwhelming country theme despite the title. The country ballad “Criminals,” featuring a duet with Elizabeth Hopkins, embodies well the despair of a long lost love without sinking into it, leaving listeners satisfied at the end rather than depressed.
A little bit of many genres, styles, and even decades comes together in Badlands, tied together by a strong pop country flavour. Tracks are available for streaming on SoundCloud. More information about the band and its past work is available on both their official website.
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