While Country music’s mainstream is still littered with disposable Pop pap (do not google “Trap-Country” unless you are looking for a stomach-pump alternative), it has been refreshing to see the rising success of so many artists who’ve allowed their traditional Country influences to shine through and don’t water down their music with overproduction or gimmicks. Ten years ago, Chris Stapleton would never have become the superstar he is today (unless he shaved that beard and limited his Country accouterments to a low-in-the-mix pedal-steel riff). Today, Stapleton is a champion of the genre, and the continued success of performers like Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Maren Morris and Zac Brown suggests that the welcome sea change in the sometimes-muddied waters of Country isn’t a fluke.
That makes it the perfect time for acclaimed Greater Cincinnati singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell to release his second album, Ties of Blood and Affection. Not that Pinnell is a newbie jumping on the trad train; he’s a Cincinnati music veteran who has been exploring Americana music for over a decade with various band projects, all of which were highlighted by his signature reflective and honest lyrical style and stunning, soul-drenched vocals. With 2015’s OH/KY album, his first solo effort, the music became more focused and his songwriting carried a new confidence that helped it become recognized by the national (and international) music press as something truly special.
Ties of Blood and Affection continues in that vein, but steps things up to a new level, as Pinnell sounds even more comfortable and poised. The songs are as honest and contemplative as ever, but there’s less darkness on Ties, as Pinnell moves away from pain and regret and toward a sense of redemption and joy. Those themes and a growing self-assuredness make Ties feel less introverted, but just as introspective and self-examining as anything on OH/KY. Backed by a band that beautifully captures the spirit of the best of vintage Honky Tonk and Outlaw Country and buoyed by unfussy production that presents the music nakedly, Ties of Blood and Affection more than proves that Pinnell deserves to have his name added to the list of artists who are fueling the current “real Country” resurgence.