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JT Hodges, ‘JT Hodges’ – Album Review

JT Hodges
Show Dog Universal

JT Hodges‘ collision of varied influences make his self-titled, debut album a strange — but not unenjoyable — listen. Lyrically, the best songs on ‘JT Hodges’ feel strange and somehow forbidden, like a journey through the wardrobe, or adventure to a new world. He teeters on the axis of cool and too cool for the room.

This has resulted in two unsuccessful singles in ‘Hunt You Down’ and ‘Goodbyes Made You Mine.’ Both are total originals, with the latter being the best song of the 10 on the album. The new single, ‘Sleepy Little Town,’ also misses the target. It’s a good story, but relentlessly depressing.

“Everybody’s proud of Mary Lou / She got a full ride to a private school / Gonna be a doctor or a lawyer some day / She’s 17 and three months late,” he sings before a chorus that goes, “When the lights come on in a sleepy little town / There ain’t no secrets when the truth comes out.” There’s a Bruce Springsteen feel with the “Whoa-ohs,” and even the celebrated sadness of the story.

The overload of imagery is something like an acid trip. Every character and setting is sharp, colorful and vivid, with uncompromising structure and direction. The bluesy ‘Green Eyes and Red Sunglasses’ offers a stomping rhythm section while telling the story of a good looking woman who’s ready for trouble.

Cross legged on the hood of a jet-black Chevrolet / High heels hanging off her toes / Lord let her look my way / With them green eyes and red sunglasses.”

The best ballad, ‘When I Stop Crying,’ is partnered with cutting electric guitar solo. ‘Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely’ is a total throwback. It sounds like something Hodges would have had to fight Elvis Presley for 50 years ago. Only by adding a weave of steel guitar is the rocker-in-disguise able to make this a country song. It’s an effective first cut on the album, though, because it sets the stage for a wild ride that one can’t fully evaluate until it’s long over.

Songs which don’t really work include ‘Leaving Me Later’ and ‘Give It One More Night,’ but this is only because they’re forgotten about amongst more exotic offerings. ‘Rhythm of the Radio’ might be Hodges’ best shot at a radio hit, but he’s is clearly a man that prides himself on doing things a little differently. That’s a double-edged sword.

3 Stars

See More New Country Albums Coming in 2012

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