It’s difficult to accurately narrow down the specifics of Chattanooga singer Jay Terrell‘s work. It’s firmly within the wheelhouse of modern country, but he dismantles so many of the stereotypes surrounding it that the end result feels very much apart from the sounds of that genre. His intuitive approach to country (and its pop-minded brethren) feels distinct in its execution but communal in its sentiment. There’s a dangerous line to be toed, as the bland platitudes of a good chunk of popular country music are linked with its induction into the glistening halls of pop music. But Terrell finds a way to blend the two dynamic viewpoints to create a roiling and restless musical landscape.
On his new single, “Drinks Up,” Terrell establishes an acoustic rock swagger that highlights the old-school country rhythms that thread their way through the body of the song. There’s certainly a hint of modern country’s gloss and slick production, but it’s used in such a way as to showcase Terrell’s understanding of classic country ideologies in framing the perspective of his own work. It’s less the empty imagination of someone like Toby Keith and more the inherent country awareness of an artist like Kacey Musgraves, and it serves him well in how he subverts our bucolic expectations.
There’s a good deal of pop influence here, as Terrell uses the elasticity inherent to the genre to aid him in breaking down the various vivid inspirations that form the basis of his structured aesthetic. The guitars spin and echo as the drums lay out a weightless framework from which he offers this populist country viewpoint. The song is laced with a handful of familiar sounds, but there’s never a point where his own identity is overruled by the noise of his longstanding influences-which makes “Drinks Up” that rare modern country song that revels in the twin shadows of pop and country while maintaining a relevant and unique melodic frame of reference.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.