Album Review: Jarrod Dickenson – Ready the Horses
Texan troubadour doubles down on the dust-bowl, whiskey-soaked ballads for his major label debut
Review by Andrew Steel
It’s been a long time coming for Jarrod Dickenson’s second full-length effort Ready the Horses. The New York country man was all but ready to release his latest collection of songs six months ago – but pre-release hype caught the eye of the legendary Decca Records, facilitating a major label move and half-year delay. Now, it’s about to see the light of day, coinciding with a brace of UK shows – and it finds the Texan-born troubadour in rude, if relatively expected health.
Oblique comparisons to Tom Waits and Gram Parsons aside, Dickenson does indeed cleave to the tenants of the great Lone Star songwriters, his songs dipped in the dust-bowl and evocative of the frontier. Even his song titles – Gold Rush, A Cowboy and The Moon, Way Past Midnight – evoke the images of ramshackle border towns on the edge of the desert. The latter is a first half highpoint, a silver-spurs barn-dance boogie that lends itself well as a rockier outlier to otherwise languid, gospel-tinged cuts. Take It From Me is lifted on its choruses by a choir of female voices, tinged with Southern religious fervour; Faint of Heart folds snatches of Hammond organ into its Allman blues licks.
No new ground is broken here; merely a refinement of existing sounds. But mellow, whiskey-soaked ballads are Dickenson’s bread-and-butter in trade, and he delivers in spades, with the boarded-up bar-room murmurs of In the Meantime and the heartland rock shuffle of Your Heart Belongs to Me. It is California that stays in the mind the longest, the centrepiece of the album; a pretty slide guitar draped over a lovelorn Midwestern groove that lingers long into the star-strewn night. Dickenson has a talent, that is without question; Ready the Horses makes it clear that it is one most comfortable when namechecking the past.