Jackyl mastermind Jesse James Dupree is sort of the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of Larry The Cable Guy. He plays his redneck schtick to the hilt, so it’s impossible to tell where the act ends and the man begins. One thing is clear though: neither of these gents would still be around if they were really the dumb hillbillies they play on stage. They know their audience, and that audience reciprocates that loyalty. At the same time however, there’s now a palpable sense of having heard it all before, with “Rock me, roll me, Jackyl me off” sounding as tired and obligatory a slogan as “Git ‘er done!” these days.
So here we have Jackyl’s seventh proper studio album, Rowyco. That’s an acronym for “rock out with your cock out,” in case you wondered. Jesse has long bragged about his band’s remarkable consistency, and in a way he’s right: Jackyl never stray too far from their patented whiskey-guzzling, titty-pinching, AC/DC-meets-Skynyrd sound. Sometimes it leans more toward the sound of a souped-up Camaro, and sometimes it sounds more like a lumbering, smoke-belching truck, but Jackyl’s music has always been instantly recognizable. Jesse’s voice has remained amazingly intact, on record at least, particularly for a singing style that would seem to be hard on the vocal cords (especially for a guy it’s difficult to picture sipping on herbal tea and not talking for any length of time). The rest of the band, comprised of Jeff and Chris Worley on guitar and drums along with one-time Brother Cane bassist Roman Glick, are as rock-solid as always. But the quality of the band’s songs has been up and down through the years, with their self-titled 1992 debut plus 2010’s aplty-named When Moonshine And Dynamite Collide being loaded with some of the band’s best songs, while other discs (Cut The Crap, for example, or 2012’s Best In Show) boasted a handful of good songs and lots of lackluster filler. So where does Rowyco fit into the hierarchy? Somewhere in the middle, I’d have to say.
Dupree calls our attention to what he claims is the thickest sound yet on a Jackyl album, and I guess that’s true. But it’s not all that important in the grand scheme of things, as they’ve never had a thin-sounding record. As always, it all comes down to the songs themselves, and Rowyco ends up being a bit of a mixed bag.
Things get off to a strong start, as they always do on even the band’s weakest albums. “Disasterpiece” is a strange choice to open the disc, particularly when “Blast Off” seems like a much more appropriate leadoff track. After that though, we get the stomping, cowbell-laced “Rally” and the album’s hands-down best song “All Night Rodeo.” On this third track, we hear the Jackyl that brought us strip-club-wrecking anthems like “Dirty Little Mind” and “She’s Not A Drug,” complete with ass-shaking rhythm and a gang chorus to holler along with. If I were making a best-of-Jackyl playlist (or mix tape if I were feeling old-school), “All Night Rodeo” is a lock. “Ahead Of My Time” continues the winning streak, with an uncharacteristic guitar break just past the solo.
After that? I dunno, man. “Just Because I’m Drunk” is one of Jesse’s dopey “country songs,” as he calls his ballads, with him doing his warbly Janis Joplin impression, revived from the dreadful cover of “Mercedes Benz” that was the only black mark on Moonshine And Dynamite. On the first trip through, this is where the album started to lose me, as the energy level seems to drop steeply after the first four songs. Even their version of Hot Chocolate’s 1978 R&B hit “Everyone’s A Winner,” while enjoyable, seems strangely unfunky. “Crazy” likewise didn’t impress on first listen, but eventually won me over with its chorus of “I’m crazy! I’m an asshole! But you can’t get enough of me!” There’s no saving the sluggish “Hammer To The Head”—as a general rule, the slower Jackyl plays, the worse they are. “Limpdick” gets the fists flying again, Jesse gloating about stealing some effete loser’s woman. A closer examination of the lyrics would probably reveal much about subconscious inferiority complexes, but such analysis is rarely a good idea with Jackyl.
And finally we come to “Blast Off,” oddly placed at the end of the disc. Easily the most uptempo track on the album and with its rocket-launch intro, it’s a mystery to me why this song wasn’t used to start the festivities. It seems like such an obvious choice. But here it is, closing down the bar with a big, satisfying bang.
PITRIFF RATING - 74/100 – Don’t get me wrong: I’m a Jackyl fan, have been since the first album. In fact, there was a time when I called them my favorite band. I eagerly await each new release, and always find at least two or three songs to really connect with. But as the years roll on, and the band now mainly panders to aging bikers, I’m finding that our paths have diverged somewhat. Maybe it’s just my problem. But, as I noted at the outset, sometimes listening to Jackyl is like seeing the Blue Collar Comedy Tour at the state fair. You might be a redneck, here’s your sign, blah blah blah—and deep-fried Twinkies aren’t even that good. (I just read an interview where Jesse said, yet again, that he would leave it to Bono and Bruce Springsteen to write a song that can cure cancer. esus Christ, dude, you been using that line for twenty years--get some new material already!) In the end, Rowyco has a few undeniable moments that remind me why I still like Jackyl, but also a few that confirm why I don’t like them as much as I used to.