Country music star Cody Jinks evokes his outlaw forebears on his album I'm Not the Devil.

Music Notes: The Devil You Know

Written by Kevin Barry Category: Arts Issue: January 2017
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You know you’ve got a reputation that would make Joan Jett jealous when you call your album I’m Not The Devil. That’s exactly what Haltom City, Texas, country singer Cody Jinks christened his latest long-player.

It’s easy to see why folks might get confused. Jinks got his start fronting a thrash metal band, and the (unlucky) 13 songs that compose the record raise more than a little hell. But on the title track, Jinks makes it clear that his heart’s held by tried-and-true country themes. “I slipped and I fell/It got out of hand,” Jinks sings over strummed acoustic guitar. “But I’m not the devil you think I am.”

Don’t be fooled by the name – it’s a gentle and affecting ballad, a real heartbreaker.

Jinks joins a number of new traditionalists making big moves in country music. Like Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and Whitey Morgan, Jinks is cut more from the outlaw country cloth of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard (Jinks covers the Hag’s “The Way I Am”) than the arena-rock and bubblegum favored by Nashville radio. But things tend to move in cycles, and just as the neo-traditional country of George Strait, Keith Whitley and Randy Travis emerged in the wake of the “Urban Cowboy” movement of the early ʼ’80s, so it seems that the modern country fan craves more “old school”-sounding artists. The awards and charts don’t lie: Stapleton won a Grammy for his album Traveller, while I’m Not The Devil debuted at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.

None of this is to say that fans of pop-rock country acts like Keith Urban or Florida Georgia Line won’t find plenty to dig in Jinks’ music. He sounds plenty modern on songs like the rueful “Give All You Can” and the stomping “No Guarantees,” proving you don’t have to affect a “retro” sound to become a classic.

—  Jason P. Woodbury