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When Jeremy Pinnell released OH/KY in the summer of 2015 to stunned acclaim, it felt like an entire career compressed into one knock-out album. This unassuming northern Kentucky singer-songwriter sauntered and ripped through ten instant country classics that tracked as so confident and comfortable that it could have been mistaken for a seasoned musician’s creative peak. The songs themselves, reverent of Americana’s most enduring traditions, presented the man’s scope – his misadventures, loves, failures, and contradictions. Hailed as a “mind-blowingly good” (Greg Vandy, KEXP) “tutorial on classic country music” (Popmatters), Pinnell’s debut immediately differentiated as authentic and unflinching.
If OH/KY was the self-assured introduction of an unconventional new talent, his 2017 album Ties of Blood and Affection presents a canny lateral move. Instead of doubling down on the stark themes and values of his debut, this sophomore album finds Pinnell finding comfort in his own skin and achieving the redemption only hinted at in his previous batch of haunted songs. Here Pinnell joyfully embraces the working life, family obligations, and faith. His new stories delve into acceptance and survival, all the while investigating his most challenging chapter yet: adulthood. While “If life don’t get any better / I’m alright with this” isn’t an out-right triumph, it’s an honest revelation.
Musically, Ties of Blood and Affection also maintains a comfortable and confident stride. Pinnell’s songs are shot through with honest and classic elements; rooted in his steady acoustic guitar, the tunes chug along in a spring-reverb dream from somewhere between, say, 1955 and 1975 – unearthing a sweet secret cache of songs that “Waylon Jennings might have written if he had cut a record with Alex Chilton”.