In his previous works, singer Jimmy Goings laid out a blueprint for making smashingly good, unpretentious alternative country/soul music that didn’t need a big sonic boost from the soundboard to make a cratering impression with listeners, and in his latest release, the powerful Late Check-In, he takes that blueprint and formulates a stately follow-up LP worthy of bearing his name. Late Check-In gets our attention right out of the gate with “American Dreams” and doesn’t stop the deluge of anti-decadent elegance through thirteen additionally intriguing songs, all of which are more than worth your time this July.
There’s a lot of contrast comprising the melodies in “The Last Tear,” “World at War,” “Ride Away,” “Don’t Believe in Anything” and “Live Line” that isn’t found in more straightforward numbers like “Now is the Time,” “Soldier of Fortune” and “Records from Mars,” but I found the diversity of the content in this disc to be one of its most compelling attributes. For being as black and white an album as it is, Late Check-In doesn’t feel minimalist; actually, I would say that it has a grand warmth that is often absent from more elaborately-stylized LPs. It would be really interesting to hear how Goings would approach “Crazy Like Me,” “Is It Just Me” and “He’s in Your Mind” in a live setting, almost solely because of how flexible each of these compositions is to begin with.
There are a lot of different ways that he could break them down for the audience in a small-scale venue (which, debatably, is where this material would be most in its element), and even if it were to be removed from the style he presents them in here, my gut tells me they would retain the same melodic charms that make them such interesting listens in this capacity. The arrangement for “Now is the Time” is as simplistic as Late Check-In itself is, but this doesn’t leave me wanting for more when taking it in. Although it doesn’t have any of the props nor the sonic bells and whistles many tracks of its kind would, its music is made the star of the show all the more, which just can’t be said about the bulk of the music I’ve reviewed in the year 2023. Jimmy Goings wants us to value his medium as much as we do, and in steering clear of predictability, he meets his goal flawlessly in this release.
2023 is still quite active, and while I haven’t heard a lot of new records from the alternative country underground yet, this is easily one of the best LPs I’ve listened to so far of any genre. Goings assumes his role as one of the more communicative singer/songwriters in his scene here, and though he’s proven himself to be quite the poetic composer in the past, he has got a lot to be proud of in this latest set of songs. He’s getting off on the right foot this summer, and it would shock me if I were the only critic noting as much.
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