There was a time when Nashville Tennessee was known for over flowing with talent. Any club, bar, or coffee house could be considered proving grounds to some of America’s brightest up and coming artists ranging from rock, pop, and of course country. Although mainstream country has found itself in it’s most depressive state thanks to candy-coated, superficial artists such as Taylor Swift or Sam Hunt, Nashville’s underground scene is far from dead. On any given night in any given club, you might find TJ McFarland, the one-man-band mastermind that makes up Tennessee Jet. Playing a fuzzed out guitar, blowing in a distorted harmonica, kicking a primitive kick drum and engaging the crowd in a sing along with some of the most authentic, gritty yet beautiful alt-country to come from Music City in years.
On his first full length album, TJ pulls out all of the stops and delivers a records worth of songs in various Americana styles ranging from country, blues, rock, and gospel. Sounding like a solid mixture of Steve Earle and Ryan Adams, just as much as The White Stripes and The Black Keys. From the first 15 seconds of the seedy stomp in the opening track Dead Belles & Bones you know you are about to hear something authentic and unique that has been missing in the Nashville sound for far too long.
One of the stand out features of the album is the seamless transition of nasty grooves of songs like I’m In Love to the soulful gospel chant of Long John then to the delicate, heartfelt acoustic numbers such as my favorite track on the album The Longest Way Around. For being on the scene for a relatively short amount of TJ performs with the vigor and conviction of a seasoned fixture. He’s subtle when the song calls for it, he’s mysterious when the album needs it, and he has a personality that pours from each and every song that makes the entire record seem like a standard in everyone’s vinyl collection.
When playing live, it’s not uncommon for him to get the entire audience to sing along as if they are just as important to each song as the history within the walls of any legendary recording studios that may or may not still be standing in Nashville. I find it next to impossible not to sing along with HWY 51 Blues with each listen as if I’m in a smokey, seedy bar at 2am. Make no mistake, even though he does live shows playing most of the instruments, this album is not a foray into some minimalism trend. It’s full of lush instrumentation of guitars, bass, and drums (all played by TJ of course) found on any good rock n roll record, with each song breathing heart and soul in the organic way that Pro-Tools is impossible of achieving.
Tennessee Jet is easily a contender for album of the year for me. The entire record has that classic feel to it as if you’ve already wore it out from continuous play. Although the iTunes download features a couple extra tracks, I highly recommend the physical version on vinyl (the way I listen to it). Even though it has nothing to do with the sound of the album, the vinyl’s packaging is pretty cool too with an interesting multi-dimensional poster of the album cover, inspired by the lyrics of a certain song on the album, but there’s also a really unique 3D image printed on the vinyl’s Bside that’s only visible by placing a metal guitar slide on the turntable while spinning record. It’s little touches like this that makes this a truly special album crafted with care and meticulous detail that all vinyl collectors will appreciate. All in all, it’s a beautiful record by an artist I will be keeping an eye on throughout his career. I don’t normally rates albums on a number scale with this site, but if I did, Tennessee Jet would be an easy 10 ouf 10.
Download the album from iTunes
Purchase the vinyl from Fonoflo Records (in various colors too!)
Learn all about TJ McFarland and Tennessee Jet by visiting his official site