"It ain't for the faint of heart," Jarrod Dickenson croons on the lead-off track on "Ready the Horses," a rallying cry meant to inspire the reticent among us in this era of distrust and division we find ourselves living through. With his second full-length offering, Dickenson comes into his own after nearly of decade of traveling the country, shifting his base of operations and finding the will and determination to sing songs that resonate from both tradition and current happenstance. Whether it's the bluesy thrust of "Take It From Me," the jaunty spin of "Way Past Midnight" or the simple charms of "Your Heart Belongs To Me," a softly tempered duet with wife Claire Dickenson, he proves himself well capable of crossing a broad swath of Americana turf.
That said, Dickenson shares his skills with no hint of pretense. He sustains a legacy borne from his native Texas, one that dictates that singing stories spun from happenstance and the heart is best served when sentiment takes precedence. "Now, I'm not talking about forever/We don't have to play for keeps,/'Cause I know that one day/You just might pack up and leave...," he confesses on the sweet, but sobering ballad "In the Meantime." Likewise, on "California," the emotional entreaty that follows, he takes a tender glance at distant memories once shared between him and a former lover. It's heartbreaking, yet still reassuring all at the same time.
At his essence, Dickenson is a terrific troubadour, one who's gleaned the sound of Guy Clark, Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker and others of that fabled ilk, and repositioned it in a contemporary context. The tellingly titled "A Cowboy & The Moon" offers an ideal example of that home-brewed appeal, a sound hinted at even in the title alone. Yet at the same time, Dickenson maintains a standing as a singular songwriter whose blend of tenderness and tenacity ought to continue to ensure success. "Ready the Horses" finds him off to the races confidently and convincingly.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.