Cody Jinks has quickly established himself as one of the most prominent and interesting country artists in the indie scene the last few years. His last album Lifers though was his first on a label and perhaps his last, as the marketing push for his surprise two album release has heavily pushed the fact that he’s independent again and in no need of a label’s help. It’s an important thing to remember with the two albums, as it seems to be the driving force and passion behind several songs. The first album After The Fire in particular seems to really be driven by this theme, one of two major points of inspiration behind this album. Quick note: I decided to cover each separately, as I feel they’re both distinct enough that they need to be covered separately.
The album’s title track states the above-mentioned theme right up front: Jinks is tired and seeking relief after what was apparently a harrowing experience with a label. He’s also angry about the situation, as the cover art on this album suggests with the particular gesture the burnt campfire suggests. Most importantly he’s embracing his wife Rebecca Jinks’ love and support, who is the other major inspiration behind several songs on After The Fire. She’s the cold drink of water for him in a fiery world, which is a great metaphor and visual. He’s telling you right up front what this album is about.
“Ain’t a Train” deals with the neuroticism of anxiety and worry, always wondering when the next shoe drops. But the song offers a hint of optimism too, wondering if the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t a train. Not only are the lyrics incredibly descriptive and show insight into this type of thinking, but the song itself is infectious and catchy, with the groovy drums and a tasty injection of fiddle in the bridge to give it that extra kick. “Yesterday Again” is about wanting to make up for lost time and Jinks wanting to make amends for not always being there for his wife. The lingering pedal steel guitar gives the song a perfect sense of wondering, dread and guilt Jinks feels towards his wife.
“Tell’em What It’s Like” sees Jinks pleading to his wife to tell everybody what it’s really like to live with him and the turmoil caused by him being on the road and the mental baggage he brings when he is home. It’s an incredibly real look into the lives of musicians and the pain they deal with, dismissing the glamorous life many fans envision. Jinks’ earnest honesty about his flaws on this song and the rest of this album really shines through and resonates with you as you listen. It’s both respectable and makes for great country music. “Think Like You Think” is about his wife questioning his reckless lifestyle and thinking. I think the previous song did a better job at covering this topic, but this song is still another solid look into the complicated relationship at times between Jinks and his wife. If there’s one criticism that stood out to me on this album, it’s that this topic can wear thin depending on your mood and number of listens.
“William and Wanda” is a fantastic song about Jinks’ grandpa reuniting with his grandma. It’s excellent storytelling with all the details and emotion needed to make this song light up in your head. But I must also point out that I had zero clue what this song was about until I looked it up because I was completely stumped. The lyrics are fantastic once you realize the context, but without the context I was completely lost and couldn’t figure out this was his grandparents, nor this conversation was taking place in heaven. It’s a minor gripe with an otherwise great song that I highly recommend you listen to if you haven’t done so.
“One Good Decision” is the most fun track on the album, a rowdy honky tonk jam about avoiding infidelity. The twangy telecaster is honey to the ears and makes the songs an instant toe-tapper. The drum play on this song is great too, reminding me a lot of the excellent drum play throughout Lifers. While many complain about the compression on this song, I think it sounds good and fits, giving it almost a live feel. This song also breaks up the seriousness throughout this album, while also still relevant to those songs too. “Dreamed with One” shows the softer side of Jinks, as it’s a sweet love ballad showing how deep his affection runs for this wife. It’s one of my favorites on this album because of the heartfelt, genuine nature of Jinks shining through his vocal performance.
“Someone to You” further enforces his love towards his wife, as Jinks avows he would rather be a somebody to her than a somebody to the rest of the world. In other words, their love is more important than any amount of fame and fortune. It’s a bit of a cliché, but with the context of the rest of the album, you know it’s not just words. And that is what separates artists from performers. “Tonedeaf Boogie” is a catchy, jazzy instrumental track to close the album. It’s a bold choice that I really like, as it was a common tactic used by many country artists back in the day that I wouldn’t mind being revived. It allows the band to stretch out and show off their skills, as they deserve a lot of credit for the quality on this album.
After The Fire is a great album about the trials and tribulations of life on the road and navigating the hurdles of marriage. Jinks takes a refreshingly truthful approach to topics that on most albums from country artists feel worn and lacking sincerity. The production compliments the lyrics quite well too. I think Cody Jinks and After The Fire prove his claim that no label is needed for him.