There’s a true warmth that permeates “Shineye Landing”, the latest album from singer/songwriter Billy Jeter. A true Arkansan with a family that’s extended over a few generations, the man has certainly been busy leading up to this album, and the soulfulness and intimacy he displays musically are on full display. It’s an introspective mood piece of an album that asks you to join Jeter as he looks forwards and backward in his life. He cites Bob Dylan and John Lennon as influences, but his vocal performance is like an unpolished latter-day Tom Petty. That’s not a diss by any means, it just makes his performance feel more authentic. His lyrics can be on the more esoteric side, but the imagery is vivid as he combines folk and country attributes together.
The closer “The Apostle” is probably the most indicative of this kind of blend as it almost has this folksy “Oh this song has always existed” quality that makes it shockingly endearing. Endearing is one of the best ways to describe this album that feels like it was cut from a piece of Jeter’s own nostalgia. Even on something that’s less connected from him like the opener “Orion” you have a clear sense for his knack as a storyteller. The songs work very well as mood pieces and this is also helped by the clear-cut production choices made.
The instrumentals are straightforward and in places shockingly sparse, but I’d argue the record is all the better for it. The titular track is another highlight that showcases how even as wordy as a lot of Jeter’s lyrics are, they’re never gratuitous, as he weaves a story of the past and the love of where he came from. When he says “Hurry let’s go” there’s this youthful quality to it that’s frankly beautiful for this time of record. The vocal backing on the track is also incredibly complimentary. Now, because of the nature of this beast, it’s country/folk which isn’t everyone’s thing. To quote the producer of Leonard Cohen “It’s three-notes and then see ya later”. I do think for a more seasoned listener who wants something that feels light in the performance but is dense in the words, this is a great place to look to.
Early on in the album, there’s a track called “That’s Just the Way We Roll” and while the lyrics are loose and whimsical, it’s hard not to interpret it as a love letter for where he came from and the life he’s led, and it’s a privilege to hear someone so fearlessly expound these feelings. In future releases, I’d love to see him be a little more straight forward with some of the places these songs come from, if only because it feels like we’re seeing the forest for the trees so to speak and I’d love to get a more personal feeling with Jeter. Consistently entertaining, throughout engaging, Billy Jeter has made a country love letter to life itself without skimping on the inevitability of time, but the joy it brings.
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