Review: Cody Jinks Serves Up Honesty, Earthiness, and Uncompromised Artistry on ‘Change The Game’

Videos by American Songwriter

(Late August Records)
4 out of 5 stars

1 star – Pass
1.5 stars – Mediocre
2 stars – Average
2.5 stars – above average
3 stars – Good
3.5 stars – Great
4 stars – Excellent
4.5 stars – Exceptional
5 stars – Classic

Proudly independent, Cody Jinks’ path to stardom was nobody’s idea of a fool-proof plan. Initially a heavy metal musician, Jinks shifted his booming baritone to the country field in the early 2010s. The results—multiple top-selling albums released mostly on his own label, sold-out arena shows—speak for themselves. The prolific singer/songwriter (this is his 10th studio offering) delivered two roots albums in 2021, and followed those up with another few in 2022, including one with his harder outfit, Caned by Nod. 

Some artists grab at the “outlaw” tag as an emblem of authenticity, but few live it as honestly as Jinks. He kicks off this recording on his Late August Records imprint with the somber acoustic ballad “Sober Thing,” an intensely personal statement about giving up booze and drugs: The numbing just fueled me for the running away from the pain / And I’m closer to the messed up than the sober thing.

The remainder continues in that reflective vein, lacing the proceeding 11 tracks with explanations, apologies, and heartfelt admissions as songs titled “Wasted,” “Change the Game,” and “Always Running” imply. Jinks’ deep, emotive voice, his music that hovers between country and pure singer/songwriter, and a basic, if not quite, stripped-down approach spark this ballad- and midtempo-oriented work. Gospel-infused backing singers deliver extra authenticity, and when a fiddle appears on the jittery “Outlaws & Mustangs,” it’s clear Jinks has found his groove. When the choir repeats the chorus of that track, it’s goosebump time—and makes one feel it may also be time to place Change the Game into early best-of-2024 contention. 

The bittersweet duet with Pearl Aday on the bluesy “Take This Bottle” should be a top-charting hit. And “I Would,” a love paean to his partner, highlights the honesty, earthiness, and uncompromised artistry Jinks insists on serving up. This most introspective of his works might also be his finest collection yet.

Photo by Tyler Stubblefield

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