Denton, Texas’ The Baptist Generals took 10 years to release their sophomore effort, during which time an entire album was scrapped before Jackleg Devotional to the Heart was finally complete. That apparent perfectionism was unfortunately misplaced, as the album starts off strong but ends up overcomplicated.
The album was co-produced by Stuart Sikes, who has previously worked with Modest Mouse, and as a result, tracks like 3 Bromides and the unfortunately titled Clitorpus Christi have a definite Built to Spill/Modest Mouse feel. Lead singer Chris Flemmons’ voice has all the high tenor acrobatics and yelps of Doug Martsch and Isaac Brock, only with a southern drawl. Simple strumming and single note plucks jerry-rig enough harmony and melody to produce wonders like Turnunders and Overpasses, which could easily pass for an early version of Long Distance Drunk.
But the second half of Jackleg Devotional to the Heart loses the drive and concision of its beginning, instead getting mired in production. This is the biggest problem with sitting too long on an album; artists tend to get caught up in small details. Songs like My O My and Floating have an excessive ornamentation to them that reads as noodling without direction. The final track, Oblivion Overture, is unnecessary, Flemmons simply singing the verses of earlier Oblivion over cascading strings that are phased in and out to add what was probably intended as “depth.”
Had Flemmons spent less time agonizing over every detail of the album, Jackleg Devotional to the Heart could’ve been a heartbreaking folk rock album. But time proved to be a damning force, and the tangled aesthetic wears on the album.
Essential Tracks: “Turnunders and Overpasses”, “Clitorpus Christi”