The outlaw country vibe that emanates from Cody Jinks' latest, "I'm Not the Devil," is as palpable as a Muhammad Ali jab, and it extends far beyond Jinks' cover of Merle Haggard's "The Way I Am." Like many of the purveyors of the absolute best of authentic country music these days, Jinks' upbringing is rich with country tradition but his musical roots are steeped in metal, including a six-year stint with thrash outfit Unchecked Aggression.
There's something about the passionate crucible of punk and metal that somehow translates to the emotional depth of country, and Jinks is simply the latest to tap into its boundless potential.
Jinks may reinforce his authenticity with a rough-hewn beard-and-tattoos persona, but his songwriting and musical presentation are as honest as Abe Lincoln and as pure as Hank Williams. Jinks deftly mixes biblical references ("Church at Gaylor Creek"), road songs ("Chase That Song") and political dissatisfaction ("Hand Me Down") with a cautionary accounting of his youthful - and not so youthful - indiscretions ("Heavy Load") and offers his perspective in various forms, from propulsive country rock to rootsy troubadour balladeering.
Regardless of the volume he utilizes to make his point, Jinks finds the heart of his message with his compelling baritone and a flawless sense of emotional melodicism, particularly on the apologetic "I'm Not the Devil," a last minute co-write with Ward Davis when the album was completed that not only found a place in the set list but was powerful enough to inspire Jinks to name the album after it. It's another example of the intuitive and organic way that Jinks has managed his career to date, which has now yielded perhaps the best album in his already impressive catalog.