Combine the steel guitars and fiddles with Cody Jinks’ honest, heartfelt writing and a baritone twang, and you’ll find just about every factor that exemplifies what hardcore country fans look for in traditional country music. Jinks’ 2015 Adobe Sessions introduced him to a slew of fans, and now Jinks is on the road with Whitey Morgan, bringing hardcore, traditional country music to fans across the nation. And there’s absolutely no doubt that Cody Jinks’ new album I’m Not the Devil is not only traditional country, but will be one of the better traditional country albums of the year. Every song on the album is undeniably country, and Jinks truly digs deep with his approach to the songwriting, opening up his soul and struggles for the world to hear.
The ring of a steel guitar runs through the speakers as “The Same” kicks off the album. Jinks takes a subtle, yet effective approach while singing about catching up with an old flame. She pops up rather unexpectedly and strikes up a small talk conversation. While she has moved on after the end, he hints to her that his feelings haven’t changed much. Following is what can truly be described as the album’s theme with “I’m Not the Devil.” It was one of the last songs written and recorded for the album and “I’m Not the Devil” fit as the album name because it’s message permeates throughout the rest of the album. “I’m not the devil you think that I am. It ain’t no excuse, but I’m just a man. I slipped and I fell and got out of hand, but I’m not the devil you think that I am.” Many of the album’s songs deal with a man’s internal struggle between right and wrong, angels vs. demons, God vs. the Devil: coping with past mistakes and trying to move forward in a more positive way.
Cody Jinks relies on religious imagery to help tell these stories. “No Guarantees” opens up with Jinks talking about his religious upbringing. With childlike naivety, he believes reading the Bible and knowing Jesus’ words are enough to keep temptations at bay. But the reality is there are demons and temptations in his life, and it takes action and effort from a person to battle them. One thing I like about I’m Not the Devil is how Cody Jinks balances ballads with more upbeat country songs, while making the melodies work with the written material. “No Guarantees” is one of the faster tracks on the album, but it doesn’t take away from Jinks’ words and message.
“No Words” is an honest confession from a husband to his wife. He understands that he hasn’t been the best person and has made mistakes, drank too much, and not treated her well. He sees how she continues to stand beside him and not lose faith, and her devotion encourages him. He vows to be better and show her the same love. It’s a well written, touching, honest love song. “Give All You Can” is the longest song on the album, and brings out a load of passion from Jinks. From the quiet combo of a steel guitar and piano, the song evolves and grows into a musical crescendo over the five minutes. Referencing his dark places and tortured soul and being encouraged by Matthew 5, Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Jinks realizes that life needs to be lived with purpose and meaning. One mark of a great song is how it’s indescribable in what makes it great. That’s what you have with “Give All You Can”; words don’t do it justice.
“She’s All Mine” is a lighthearted love song with a simple upbeat rhythm. Jinks sings lyrics praising the great qualities in his wife, and how much he appreciates her presence in his life. Since I’m Not the Devil has such a heavy, dark mood, the song is a nice break in the mold. With that said, though, “She’s All Mine” also stands out because the writing is rather simple and unimaginative. It’s repetitive and doesn’t really have the same kind of depth as the rest of the album. The song works in the view of the album as a whole, but it doesn’t have much meat standing alone.
Cody Jinks sings of life on the road with the next couple of songs. “The Way I Am” seems to touch on feelings of doubt and frustration. “I wish I enjoyed what makes my living, did what I do with a willing hand. Some would run, but that ain’t like me. So I’ll just dream and keep on being the way I am” Jinks sings in the second stanza. It’s easy to listen to a song like this and jump to conclusions without any context, but the song is honest look at life and responsibility. And I’m sure all singers, at one point or another, get a feeling of being stuck in a rut or putting in blood, sweat, and tears without seeing the desired results. But Jinks counters this with the honky tonk foot stomper “Chase That Song.” The song uses several metaphors to describe rolling from town to town and setting up for a rowdy country show. “Chase That Song” is a rollicking good time.
Perhaps the darkest song on the album comes from the aptly named “Heavy Load.” Jinks said he wrote the song out of exhaustion, and it touches on feeling stuck, frustrated, carrying a heavy load of regret and mistakes. The outlaw-like production of the song keeps it darker, as Jinks goes so far to quote some end-of-the-world like Bible verses from Revelation during the song’s bridge. Despite how heavy the song is, “Heavy Load” is well produced and put together. “Grey” is an acoustic soul-searching song. Simply him and his guitar, Jinks sings about trying to rediscover the passion and trying to relight the fire in life.
Cody Jinks explores youthful innocence over a few songs. With “Church at Gaylor Creek,” Jinks thinks back to his church back home, and ponders how far he’s gone away from those days as a kid. He’s a man who has sinned and lived life differently than his family growing up, but times have changed and affected him. The song is Jinks looking back at his innocent years when he’s not being blinded by the mistakes of neon lights and whiskey. And with “Vampires,” Jinks, a father of two, sings of trying to protect his own children and their youthful innocence from the world. As time goes on, dreams may die and it get’s harder and harder to keep the protective veil over your children. Jinks compares himself and his efforts to Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield. I’m Not the Devil concludes with the loud, biting “Hand Me Down.” It’s a song where Jinks rattles off his frustration with politicians, Wall Street, the news, and many other things in today’s culture that don’t really sit well with him. The people trying to hand down their opinions, propaganda, and bullshit, trying to get Jinks and others to think like them instead of for themselves. It’s a repetitive song that doesn’t really dig into any item with much detail, but Jinks doesn’t hide how pissed he feels about it.
With a heavy hand, Cody Jinks hits you hard with I’m Not the Devil. The brutally honest self-reflection provides for some well-written songs. Cody Jinks unlocks his heart and puts his soul on display for everyone to see: his doubts, his frustrations, his missteps, and his love are cast into the light with nothing stopping them. Jinks expresses his vulnerability with thoughtfulness and tells his story with conviction. At times it may get too heavy, and at 13 songs the album feels a bit repetitive at places. But make no mistake, I’m Not the Devil is a great country album. Cody Jinks continues to make a name for himself as a country singer, and this album will do nothing but add more fuel to drive Jinks forward as a country star fans can proudly look toward.