Fans of what could possibly be described as new classic country were treated to a three-course helping Wednesday when Cody Jinks came to Portland, Oregon with his pals Ward Davis and Paul Cauthen along to help elevate the experience.
When the first performer to hit the stage has had his songs recorded by the likes of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, you know you’re getting off on the right foot. Ward Davis spent a decade and a half chasing hits in Nashville before Nelson and Haggard recorded “Unfair Weather Friend.” That event inspired him to get out from under the thumb of the Nashville machine and hit the road breaking his own musical trail, leading to the 2015 release of his album, 15 Years in a 10 Year Town. Davis also co-wrote the popular title track to Jinks’ album I’m Not The Devil. Before he played “Unfair Weather Friend,” Davis told the audience that Haggard, a week before his death, chose the song to be played at his funeral. When Merle Haggard chooses a song you wrote to be played at his own funeral, well, that’s an accolade far greater than any CMA award.
Next up was Paul Cauthen, who’s 2016 album, My Gospel, like his rich baritone voice, just cannot be ignored. The album is Cauthen’s first release after quitting his old band Sons of Fathers in 2013. He spent the next few years roaming around Texas, and the soul search proved fruitful. Cauthen possesses a swagger and voice that evokes the outlaw era of country music. At times, if you closed your eyes, you’d have thought that Elvis was up there crooning away.
His band, consisting of drums, electric bass, keyboards and electric/slide guitar, supported Cauthen while he played acoustic guitar and sang his way through many of the tracks from My Gospel as well as a couple of choice covers. He belted out “Folsom Prison Blues” halfway through, and toward the end of the set, Cody Jinks’ drummer and pedal steel player joined in the fray. Jinks himself came out to share vocal duties on “Luckenback, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” to end Cauthen’s portion of the show.
It wasn’t long before Cody Jinks and his band took the stage to raucous applause. He’s been riding a steadily rising tide of popularity since the August 2016 release of I’m Not The Devil (his fifth release as a country artist) and a recent appearance on Conan. The first show that was announced in Portland sold out fast, so they added a second.
The rise in popularity didn’t come out of the blue. Jinks has had 5 releases since 2010, and has gained the respect of peers and the ear of fans through hard work, perseverance, and by staying true to his creative vision. His career has the same cadence as “I’m Not The Devil.” It may be slow and steady, but it’s unwavering in its trajectory.
Backed up by drums, electric bass, electric guitar, and pedal steel, Jinks presented a range of songs from all 5 releases, but leaned heavily on material from I’m Not The Devil and 2015’s Adobe Sessions. The stage setlist had 23 songs on it. And it didn’t list Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” which they also played. The band hit the stage before its listed set time and played late. Ward Davis came out to play keyboards on “I’m Not The Devil.” There was an oft-visited cooler of macro brews within arms reach of the stage. Cowboy hats waved in the air as the crowd sang along. The whole affair had the feel of an old Texas roadshow. And although there was a tour bus parked outside, it was easy to imagine these guys heading down the road in a convoy of 60’s model Cadillacs to the next honky tonk.
Jinks saved fan favorite “Hippies and Cowboys” for the final song of the night, and it proved to be a pretty good summary of the evening. “Raising hell with the hippies and the cowboys/They don’t care about no trends, they don’t care about songs that sell/Yeah, tomorrow I’ll be gone/So tonight everybody just sing along/Raising hell with the hippies and the cowboys.”