My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners – ‘Aces ‘N Eights’

Aces n EightsSinger-songwriter Jackson Taylor was born in Texas as one of 11 children of a migrant laborer, and raised wherever his father found work. I picked up his 2007 album Dark Days earlier this year, and was impressed by it. He has followed that up this year with a new release for Smith Entertainment, which encapsulates his musical mix of rocking Outlaw-inspired country with an edge (sometimes too much of an edge). He does not have the greatest voice, but it conveys his songs well, capable of both aggressive attack and surprising tenderness.

The album is topped and tailed by two versions of the same song, the rocking honky tonker ‘Back On The Bottle’. The first version opens the set with a bang as Jackson swaps verses with Dale Watson on this declaration of falling off the wagon when a woman dumps him; the closing one is a little more low-key and features a Swedish country band called The Taylors who apparently started out as a Jackson Taylor tribute act (hence their name), and do themselves credit here. Both versions are good, and the song packs quite a punch:

“I’m back to drinkin’ and driving all the ones I love away
I’m back on the bottle, back to the bad old days”

The opening version is followed by the similarly themed and sounding ‘Ball & Chain’, written by Mike Ness, a punk musician with a sideline in dirty funky attitude-infused country in the vein of Hank III. It is performed here as another duet, this time with Texas singer-songwriter Jason Boland. Ness also wrote ‘Highway 101’, which is a little too far down the rock road for my taste. Jackson himself wrote all the other songs, and proves himself a very talented songwriter, albeit too inclined at times to shock apparently for the sake of it.

The album bears a parental advisory warning thanks to two songs. ‘Country Song’ is a profanity-strewn rant at the country music industry (not sparing other genres, either). The underlying sentiments are mostly fine (who doesn’t despise ‘spiky-haired half assed popstar wannabes’ pretending to be country singers?), but frankly I would have preferred an expurgated and perhaps a less aggressive version. The other deliberate attempt to court controversy is ‘Cocaine’, a defiant and rather shouty spiel to an ex about using drugs, booze and ‘dirty girls’ (complete with tasteless pornographic sound effects) to get over her. I really disliked this one. The only other track I didn’t care for was the repetitive ‘Sex Love And Texas’.

It is almost disconcerting to find that Jackson also has a softer side, starting with the interesting and quietly melodic ‘Sunset’, gently addressing a naive young woman with sympathy and insight:

“Those ain’t the kind of lights that shine
They’ll burn a hole right through your fragile mind …

Dreams come true for a chosen few
But most here will just have to crawl
And I’ve seen ’em crawl and I’ve seen it all

Maybe you think you want it all
And maybe you have a fearless heart
But baby, please don’t forget
How hard it gets
Down on Sunset

You’re such a beautiful girl
But you’ve got your eyes closed to the world
And this world isn’t kind
To the blind”

There is a really lovely wedding/love song using the image of a wedding ring as a way for an inarticulate man to declare undying love:

“It says all I couldn’t say
It says it in a perfect way

It says, I do take you
To have and to hold to the end of the road
And I will love you still
After the new has withered to old
And darling, until we turn to dust
There’s still a little golden circle of trust

It don’t rust, it don’t fade
It’s as strong as the love that we made”

Even if the rest of the album doesn’t sound like your thing, this charming song is worth anybody’s download money. Jackson spent a few years in Nashville trying to make it as a songwriter, and this tender song could easily be covered by a mainstream act.

Also excellent is the title track, a reflective love song on which Jackson sounds rather like Waylon Jennings:

“They say demons die hard but angels die harder
And that’s been the savior for me
I was born to the darkness, saved to the light
It’s a story as old as the sea
Better men die every day
But somehow I’m spared the grief
Baby just look what you’ve mad
You made a full house out of aces ‘n eights

A lifetime of losing, a lifetime of pain
Wwashed away by your smile”

Another highlight is the rueful recognition of the difficulty of finding true love when living on the road, when an ‘Easy Loving Stranger’ is the best he can hope for:

“A little of something is better than nothing
Shallow love is better than no love at all”

This is probably the most straight country song on the set.

The subdued ‘Love Don’t Come Around Here’ uses a gentle melody to paint an effective picture of the darker side of town where:

“Love don’t come around here
It don’t show its face
To those who’ve turned away
From its gifts and its grace…

Ruled by hatred and fear
Love don’t come around here
These streets paved with thorns
You’ll walk barefoot and alone…”

Alos good are the enjoyable Mexican-tinged cheerful chugger ‘Goin’ Back To California’ and the pleasant mid-tempo love song ‘Bare Feet On The Dash’.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this album. The good songs are very good, especially ‘Circle of Trust’ and ‘Easy Loving Stranger’, but there are moments I didn’t like at all.

Grade: B

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