“When the Nashville night falls quiet,” drawls Tennessee Jet on the title track of his third album, The Country (Thirty Tigers Records, 2020), “My mind crawls to dark hollows/Like a shiner to a still.” If anything sums up Jet’s sound and fury, it is this achingly honest admission of the baser instincts of the human condition.
Growing up in Oklahoma, with a father who busted broncs and a mother who barrel-raced, country music is in Jet’s blood, but not the country music you might hear on the Grammy’s or the American Country Music Awards shows. His music is at times sparse, yet intimately effective – most of his gigs are one-man shows, an electric guitar slung over his shoulder and a drum at his feet – and his voice is at once something new, yet instantly recognizable.
“I’m always looking to challenge the definition of what a specific genre is supposed to sound like,” Jet says in reference to The Country. “People are aching for truth in country music again, and that’s what this record came to represent.”
Jet cut his teeth on the country classics – Dwight, Waylon, George, Merle – and channels their spirit every night, whether he’s appealing to the lovelorn (Someone to You) or blazing through the hot electric fuzz of Johnny, his searing tribute to Johnny Horton. One of the many highlights of his new release is Jet’s respectful take on Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho & Lefty,” which features members of Dwight Yoakam’s touring band, many of whom made individual contributions on other songs on the album as well.
But what Tennessee Jet has always done best is peel back the layers to expose the soft underbelly of his music, both on this new release and at his live shows. As Jet says himself, “Even if I mastered those sounds [of traditional and outlaw country], I’d still be emulating someone else. I had to make music on my own.” The multi-instrumentalist Jet does this in spades, throwing out casual references to both his musical heroes and his literary ones – Faulkner, Guthrie, Kerouac – as well as callbacks to his Oklahoma roots. Even on a tune as embedded in the cultural zeitgeist as “She Talks to Angels,” Jet wrestles the song to the floor and bends it to his will, making it his own.
Whether he’s singing the autobiographical Straw Dogs, an upbeat recollection of racing to get to his next gig, his girlfriend (now his wife) riding by his side, or blazing through the thinly-veiled frustration of Hands On You, Jet’s own inner battles are on full display in The Country. The closing track, Sparklin’ Burnin’ Fuse, provides the clearest, most succinct insight into the man: “I got a head full of metal/But a heart of country gold.”
Tennessee Jet brings his eclectic, electric show to the Mercury Lounge on December 19th for a one-of-
a-kind Christmas concert that cannot be missed. Be sure to bring a new, unwrapped toy (for boys or girls
of all ages) for their annual toy drive – these can be dropped off at the merch table before and during the
show. Tickets and details available at https://www.mercuryloungetulsa.com/shows