While most may generally associate Tennessee native Jessi Alexander’s name with the hits she has written for others including Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Miley Cyrus and of course the CMA/ACM winning “ I Drive Your Truck” cut by Lee Brice but she is also a recording artist in her own right. And thank goodness she is, it would be a crime for her not to share that voice with the world in my opinion.
“ Decatur County Red” is her third album, recorded at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground Studio and inspired by a cabin in the county’s Tennessee River , left to her by her Grandmother. Jessi has dedicated it to “ the folks that love sad songs, beer joints, pedal steel and country music “ . Yep, that’s me!
Its eight tracks see her looking back at her life and exposing a vulnerable side that reflects what most of us associate with country music….raw, honest storytelling, with the genre’s blues/rock influences coming over too throughout the album both in its instrumentation and production.
The lead single “ Mama Drank”, released a few weeks ago and co-written with her husband, Jon Randall, is a great example of all of this ( with more than a touch of honky tonk in the mix as well! ). The song sees Jessi reflecting on the tough times her mother had to endure and which she was probably only aware of retrospectively, her own experience as a mother of three possibly helping open her eyes too.
This period of her life which goes back to her lowly upbringing in both Memphis and Georgia, her parents divorcing when she was three, is also represented in the album’s opening and title track……” We had a rebel flag for a curtain, a crate for a tv stand ” ….which also leaves us in no doubt from the beginning of this release what a powerful voice Jessi possesses, particularly in its soaring chorus. It’s a fantastic write which puts you right there with her, learning the survival skills needed growing up in rural America while also learning to hide her “ rebel child” feelings .
As the album progresses we learn more about certain pivotal points in her life, including her move to Nashville to follow her dream in the poignant, lilting waltz “ Damn Country Music” , a stunner of a ballad peppered with gorgeous steel and lyrics no doubt many hopefuls relocating to music city can relate to. The deep, mellow side of Jessi’s vocals are showcased in another steel-heavy ballad, “ I Should Probably Go Now”, a head versus heart song that sees her grappling with temptation . In fact for me it’s the ballads that I was initially drawn to on this album, none more so than its closing track “ How I’m Going Out” in which she looks towards the time when it’s her turn “ to jump off this carousel” . Is the carousel her time in Nashville or her time on this planet? The song could be interpreted as either I reckon, which makes it even more intriguing for me. What are your thoughts?
At the other end of the spectrum is the upbeat party song “ Country Music Made Me Do It” , featuring Randy Houser who’s voice compliments Jessi’s perfectly…..I can see this one being a favourite when played live, and can just imagine the crowd going wild, beers and whiskey in their hands and singing along.
I’m absolutely loving everything about “ Decatur County Red” , if like me you enjoy traditional country music delivered from the heart then this album is a must listen to. On repeat.
1. Decatur County Red ( feat. Jonathan Singleton)
2. Mama Drank
3. Damn Country Music
4. I Should Probably Go Now
5. My Problem Is You
6. Country Music Made Me Do It ( feat. Randy Houser)
7. Lonely Out Of Me
8. How I’m Going Out