Jelly Roll - Whitsitt Chapel
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Whitsitt Chapel (Broken Bow, 2023)

Jelly Roll

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Jelly Roll sings about spiritual warfare in his soul consistently on "Whitsitt Chapel." So, if you're looking for silly country love songs and frat boy drinking tunes, you may want to keep moving on. In addition to performing country music, Jelly Roll also raps some. In fact, he's joined by rapper Yelawolf on "Unlive" here. However, this album is a lot more country than you might expect it to be. The hit single "Save Me," which features Lainey Wilson (who is everywhere these days), is one lovely, sad country song. This is country soul music, from start to finish.

All this fighting with demons is nothing new in country music (or a lot of R&B, for that matter). Those raised in the church can seemingly never run far away enough from the roots of their raising. This struggle is especially trying for those brought up in Pentecostal holiness churches, where habits like drinking and smoking are many times treated like mortal sins. Anyone with deep church roots, and engages in these vices, is a person that - as one song here puts it - is "Dancing With The Devil."

Even though Jelly Roll explores familiar spiritual territory in many instances, you have to respect the utter honesty in "Need A Favor," another single. Jelly Roll admits to only calling upon God when he desperately needs help. "I only talk to God when I need a favor," Jelly Roll sings over an acoustic guitar groove. Isn't that like a lot of us, though, if we're honest? When life is good, it's as though we think we don't need God in our lives. Jelly Roll realizes just how flippant he can be when it comes to his relationship to God.

Then there's "Hungover In A Church Pew," where Jelly Roll just feels too guilty about his lifestyle to take communion on a track that also features some truly beautiful steel guitar. Many religious people may have never been in that Saturday night/Sunday morning situation, but you can best believe Jelly Roll has – maybe more than once.

Jelly Roll sings these 13 songs with the authority of a man who knows exactly what it's like to battle for his very soul. It may not be especially unique, content-wise, but it is undeniably authentic and powerfullly presented.

CDs by Jelly Roll

Whitsitt Chapel, 2023

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