CD Review: Jack the Radio “Badlands”

Jack the Radio is one of the strongest bands that consider themselves Americana. But as the North Carolina band’s Rock and Roll sound does incorporate a great deal of Country influences, there really is no other classification for the group.

The band consists of founding members George Hage on electric guitar and vocals and A.C. Hill on acoustic guitar and vocals along with bassist Chris Sayles, multi-instrumentalist Danny Johnson and drummer Brent Francese. Each of the members of the band help to add to the group’s unique blend of influences. Although there is the Country flavor in their sound, that is only a small part of their style. Jack the Radio seems to be all over the place as far as their music is concerned. Throughout the band’s sound, there are all sorts of influences. That adds to the Americana label that the band falls under. Each song seems to have its own sound and personality. That ever-changing Rock and Roll/Country combination is truly alive in the band’s newest release entitled Badlands.

Badlands from Jack the Radio makes use of the band’s Americana label as the release itself is split into two separate halves: The first half of the album contains one style that makes use of several different Rock and Roll influences and that resulting sound relies a lot on somewhat psychedelic guitars and a lot of keyboard. The second half of the album finds the band using Country influences to create songs with more twang to them. The two separate halves and their musical approaches make the album seem like two different musical journeys.

The first half of Badlands from Jack the Radio begins with the track “Bad Man”. “Bad Man” starts off with a Mexican-flavored trumpet solo before that solo gives way to a track with a strong, slow groove. The infectious music feels like it should belong to a jam band type of group. “Bad Man” is like the overture to the first half as the lyrics follow an outsider as he makes his way to town.

The band changes musical directions a little bit as the music for the track “The Runaway” feels like something that could have come from the Alternative Rock band The Cult. “The Runaway” features lyrics about two people having a confrontation. You can feel the attitude of the singer as he proclaims “It’s not about you, it’s about me.” “The Runaway” is simply a great Rock And Roll track.

With the track “Ain’t So Bad,” Jack the Radio takes their sound back a few years as the keyboards and guitars featured in the song transport the listener back to the seventies. The seventies influence to the song bring to mind bands like Redbone, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and others.

After six songs that feature a strong Rock quality to them, Jack the Radio changes directions in their music. The second half of the Badlands release finds the band bringing more of their Country influences to the forefront in their music.

The second half of Badlands begins with the track “My Way”. The acoustic slide guitar that begins the track adds just a little twang to the track. That twang and the strong beat that accompanies it, along with the acoustic/electric combination in the music all add up to a sound that brings to mind something from either Kid Rock or Uncle Kracker. Because the track does contain a bit of twang to the music while still containing plenty of Rock and Roll attitude, “My Way” is the perfect way to transition from the first half of the Badlands release and the second half of the album.

The track of “City Slippin’” finds Jack the Radio creating a track featuring an Alt/Country feel with plenty of horns thrown in. Like plenty of other tracks that appear on the first half of the Badlands release, this track has plenty of energy and enough of a groove to get people moving. The beat created by Jack the Radio on this track could lend itself to line dancing rather easily.

The track of “Criminals” feels like a Country track with plenty of influence from Tom Petty. Along with that musical sound, the track contains a duet that features singer Elizabeth Hopkins. The twang of the guitar on “Criminals,” along with the duet style of the lyrics combine to create a track that would be a welcome to any modern-day Country music radio format.

One of the most unusual tracks on the Badlands release from Jack the Radio is the song “Wild West Woman”. The track begins with an acoustic sound with the sound of mandolins and clapping and bass drum. It’s the clapping of the hands that create the rhythm for majority of the track while the entire drumkit of Brent Francese only appears in about forty percent of the track. The music that appears is mostly acoustic with the acoustic guitar from A.C. Hill and the afore-mentioned mandolin making up the majority of the sound. The electric guitar appears on the track to mostly add some energy to the music. While “Wild West Woman” is mainly an acoustic track, the song is another track that stands out on the release.

Badlands from Jack the Radio is a rather interesting release with its two halves and two different approaches in the music. And within the two halves of the album, the band finds ways of creating many different sounds and styles to the music. It will come down to your taste in music as to which half of the album you find better, but both halves offer plenty of winning moments that will keep the listener happy.

To check out the music of Jack the Radio, check out the band’s video to the song “My Way”.

To purchase the music from Jack the radio, click on the album cover below:

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For more information, check out the band’s PR firm, RMG Artist Development.