I gotta admit, when I heard that JT Hodges was opening for Toby Keith back in September 2011 at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA I thought I’d do a little research. I simply didn’t seem to be familiar with the name.
My pre-concert YouTube visit to check JT out left me speechless. Ya, I’d heard “Hunt You Down” but I wasn’t overly familiar with it. But after a few clicks and listens I seriously couldn’t wait to hear this dude LIVE !
So, did he deliver? He did and then some. JT is so country it’s not hard to get immediately hooked. Unfortunately, he was the first opening act that evening and only had a 15 minute slot so just as I was getting in the JT groove, you guessed it, JTs spotlight dimmed for the evening.
Have I been waiting for JTs album since then? You bet I have.
Well, it’s finally here. JT Hodges’ self-titled debut album is available August 21, 2012. JT has co-written 8 of the 10 tracks and comments:
“It’s something I’m very, very proud of. As a debut it’s a great introduction into who I am and what I do, and it gets me excited to build upon this.”
But Who’ll Be Hunting Who Down . . .
JT Hodges may have made his debut to country radio and fans with “Hunt You Down” but I’ll bet my britches that pursuit will turn once you hear this deep, gritty vocalist tell a country tale.
The album opens with the rockin “Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely” drum beat but I can assure you there’s nothing wrong here. If you’re not familiar with JT and picked this debut album up as a first listen, you’ll be delighted to hear some good ol’ fashioned country vocal strength … you know the gravely, whiskey-soaked sound that can rip through a song and your soul on its own strength.
JT introduces his debut album in a no-holds-barred way. “Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely” is an awesome uptempo confessional. This dude can’t help but plea that his desire far outweighs any demon his lady could possess.
“I hear you’re a little bit dangerous // the kinda girl a guy like me can’t trust” he belches out on the albums opener. He will immediately grab your attention, have you toe-tappin’, foot stompin’, head bobbin’ and hip rockin’ along. What adds to the heightened sensual tension between this guy and his love interest is the gritty sexiness in JTs voice “they all say look but DO NOT touch // go on, call me crazy” he begs “come on, come on, come on, come on baby // I’d rather be wrong than lonely”…
You won’t be lonely though. You’ll have this track running on repeat and will totally immerse yourself playing air guitar when “Lonely” bursts open in the bridge.
Now that JT has your attention and your heart thumping, he tenderly turns on track two and tells a tale that will have you tuned in to every word with bated breath. “Sleepy Little Town” is good ol’ fashioned country music storytelling at its finest. Each verse will leave you more in awe than the one before and the last one will leave you in chills. No spoiler here … you just gotta buy the album for this one.
I gotta tell ya though, it’s not just the storytelling – as awesome as it is – JTs blessed with a set of vocals that drives the lyric to your soul.
JT continues to surprise and deliver on “Give It One More Night”. Again, you’re immediately hooked by the musical eeriness then grabbed by the jugular with yet another stellar lyrical and vocal performance.
“When I Stop Crying” is a piano ballad opener teasingly reminiscent of Augustana’s “Boston”. You’re transcended here to the realization that the depth of the piano is driving this heartbreak and is then joined by a riveting electric jam that compliments the emotions tearing through this musical memory. JT showcases vocals on this as tender as he is strong on previous tracks. The powerful piano against the tenderness of his vocals creates an artistic harmony here that’s truly breathless.
“Goodbyes Made You Mine” throws the album back into the playful zone. Aside from being totally awestruck at how JT can sing so many words in one breath, “Goodbyes” is a happy tribute to the celebration that this guy is not a jerk like the lady’s past relationships and that he’s grateful those “Goodbyes Made You Mine”.
“Leaving Me Later” is a tender toe-tapper that reminds me a bit of those snappy 70s grooves. This one’s got you snappin’ and tappin’ and groovin’ along right from the getgo as JT confesses “She might be leavin’ me later // but she’s lovin’ me now”. Playfully infectious.
If words can paint a picture, “Right About Now” nails that songwriter’s picture painting aspiration. The lyric is so vivid here you feel like you’re there in this tension filled heartache. I was seriously impressed with how visual this song is. “Rhythm of The Radio” romanticizes between two lovers. Diehard dreamers will get lost in this rhythm …
“Green Eyes Red Sunglasses” teases with the rhythmic suggestion of a western showdown then quickly brings you back to musical history as it beats reminiscent of “Indian Reservation” (Paul Revere and the Raiders). Must be the beat because this musical accompaniment heightens the fantasy in “Green Eyes Red Sunglasses” the way the similar beat heightened the tension in the “Indian Reservation” tale. “Green Eyes” has a captivating hook that’s going to have you singing along before you even know what the song’s about. The musical diversity in this track keeps you grooving, the song interesting and the story a little elusive. It’s one of those fun numbers where when you’ve finished singing along with the whole thing you go back and say, what’s that song about ! Good groove, catchy hook.
When All is Said and Done . . .
By album’s end I was a bit confused. The vocal, instrumental and tempo diversity on this debut masterpiece is so captivating it’s hard to decide if JT’s got you hooked on the uptempos, the ballads, the hooks, the grooves, the vocals or … hell, I guess JTs just got you hooked.
Outstanding debut album. I give it a thumbs up and I look forward to hearing this live !
Favorite picks: “Rather Be Wrong Than Lonely” “Sleepy Little Town”, “Leaving Me Later”
Here’s a sneak peek into the professional artistry you’ll here on JT Hodges’ debut album