A substantial departure from Ready The Horses, Jarrod Dickenson’s Big Talk sees the singer-songwriter expand his horizons on an album that adds more color, sound, and depth to his verse and music. Recorded at The Studio in Nashville, Dickenson takes advantage of the tools at his disposal to create a fuller and wider-ranging approach that complements the more varied musical styles heard on the ten-song collection. Eschewing style over substance, instead of far-flung experimentation, he uses these assets in service of the songs, staying true to his blues-country roots, and produces his best work yet.
Dickenson’s previous music centered around emotive storytelling and simple-but-engaging musical structures, and Big Talk is no different in that regard. A couple noticeable changes are the raised volume and more aggressive delivery immediately heard on “Buckle Under Pressure.” More rock than folk or blues, the organs, backing vocals, and general country twang provide a livelier feel to the music that still draws from Dickenson’s honest and world-worn voice. Sounding like it were from another generation, the same voice delivers a candid look at the life of a musician outside the TikTok sphere on “Born To Wander,” and also anchors much of the album.
The upbeat “Home Again” blends gently-reverberated guitar with a couple chirpy licks and deft Hammond work by Jano Rix. The real treat here are the vocal harmonies by Dickenson, Rix, and Oliver Wood that breathe life into one of the best choruses of the set. “With Any Luck” is another candidate for best of the album—both the chorus and the song.
“Long Hard Look,” “Don’t Deprive Me,” and “Goodnight” close the album by offering a look at a couple different sounds. “Long Hard Look” is a swampy vehicle for another cautionary Dickenson tale filled with truisms and heavily reverberated guitar. The jaunty “Don’t Deprive Me” talks of love, set to tight harmonies and slick double-tracked vocals, while “Goodnight” is just that—an earnest fingerpicked goodbye adorned with a gentle string arrangement.
But it is the almost-theatrical “Bamboozled” that steals the show. Playing the part of the carnival-barking charlatan, Dickenson sells the story of a society turned sour to the listening audience over haunting accompaniment fit for an old west saloon. Bolstered by a great progression and some excellent piano work, the number takes a hard edge on societal critique without coming off as heavy handed or pandering, which is a rare accomplishment for any musician.
Jarrod Dickenson’s music is an interesting blend of styles. On Big Talk he shows that his old-world approach to quality traditional songwriting and composing can transition nicely to a faster and louder sound that should expose him to a larger audience. That along with a more diverse range of great songs should finally push Dickenson into the mainstream scene, a place where his music and talents rightfully belong.
The Review: 8/10
Can’t Miss Tracks
– Buckle Under Pressure
– Born To Wander
– Home Again
– Long Hard Look
The Big Hit