Album Review: Jess and The Bandits – Here We Go Again

Amy Album Review, Headlines

Jess and The Bandits first came to my attention when I experienced their feisty performance at this years Country Collective and two things hit me, firstly, Jess (Clemmons) – the voice, the energy, the boots, but also The Bandits (Ricci and Louis Riccardi, Dave Troke and Steven Reid Williams) – these guys are great musicians and they all clearly love what they do and the resulting chemistry works.

The same can be said of “Here We Go Again”, their debut album. It’s a fun, melodic roller coaster mix of country rock and ballads. Befitting of her Texan roots, Clemmons is a fun, strong and determined woman with a stunningly powerful voice and a story that she is not afraid to tell in her lyrics. Hailing from the UK, The Bandits have a musical repertoire that ranges from classic country to all out rock. Having released a couple of EPs in her own name, Clemmons headed to Nashville last year and spent ten days with a notable group of Music Row writers (Jeff Cohen, Sherrie Austin, James T Slater and Lindsey Ray). The result is this super collection that befits her vocal ability, as well as The Bandits stellar instrumentation.

The album opens with the up-tempo “Ready Set” and we are immediately hit by the power of Clemmons’ voice over electric guitar, keyboards and a drumbeat spiced with just a little country twang. This is a fantastic opener and sets the pace for an album that is peppered with captivating vocals and melodic ballads alongside punchy, country rock that let’s the good times roll.

“Love Like That” presents Clemmons in a softer, sweeter voice that works well with the steel guitar and builds into a Carrie Underwood-style power ballad. This style continues with “You Can’t Stop Me” a country pop song that highlights Clemmons’ vocal range.

Clearly a personal project, this album flows with Texan sass and confidence with themes of power and determination present in several songs although none more so than the motivational anthem “Nitty Gritty”. With its pop sound, empowering message and super-catchy hook (it stays for days) this one has to be released as a future single. In a similar vein “My Name is Trouble” (JATB debut single) creates an infectious and uplifting experience that leaves you smiling. The good times continue to roll with “Drunk on Me” and “Getting into Something”, which reminds me of the Lady Antebellum hit “Bartender” and I had to smile as it’s clever lyrics turn the tables on bro-country.

Clemmons vocals stand out alongside the musical talents of The Bandits in the big ballads (“If You Can’t be Mine”, “What If”, “Here We Go Again”). “What If” is a standout track and not surprisingly Clemmons says that it was the hardest to write, as it was the first time she had been completely open in a song.

The rollercoaster continues and I love that unexpectedly the pop sound is replaced by top-tapping honky tonk. From the opening lines of “Single Tonight” we know that this is going to be a fun, ballsy tune. Played on the piano The Bandits shine and it reminds me of Shania Twain or Gretchen Wilson and is sure to be a favourite in live performances.

The pace slows as the album closes with a captivating tribute to Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman. This pared back arrangement works perfectly and creates a fitting close to a cleverly arranged mix of songs.

Jess and The Bandits are in the UK for a number of festivals this summer and a further headline tour is planned for the autumn (dates yet to be released). Get this album and go see them if you can!

  Track Listing
  1. Ready Set
  2. Love Like That
  3. You Can’t Stop Me
  4. Wanted Man
  5. Nitty Gritty
  6. If You Can’t be Mine
  7. What If
  8. My Name is Trouble
  9. Drunk on Me
  10. Getting into Something
  11. Here We Go Again
  12. Single Tonight
  13. Wichita Lineman
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Front woman Jessica Clemmons, the singer-songwriter from Houston, Texas with the big voice and the warm personality, bonded with the four Brits who make up the Bandits over their mutual love of the music. Now they’re turning that shared affection into some of the most accessible country-pop-rock of the year.

Now, at the helm of the five-piece band, Jessica’s ready to take things up another gear. To lift a phrase from Jess and the Bandits’ feel-good single ‘My Name Is Trouble,’ this country girl can rock your world, but she can take it slow, too. “We got a little of that country-rock feel, and then we’ve got those really pretty country ballad sort of songs,” says Jessica. “I spent ten days in Nashville hoping to write enough songs, and left with more than I could put on the record. I’m really excited about it.”

.Jessica graced the Radio 2 playlist early in 2014 with ‘Single Tonight’, had further airplay with ‘Love Like That,’ and sent social media into a spin when she performed her show stopping female take on ‘Wichita Lineman’ on Terry Wogan’s Sunday morning show. All of those tracks are on the new album with the Bandits. With the band, she wowed arena audiences on Boyzone’s BZ20 tour, just as she had on earlier outings with the Overtones and the Stylistics.

On her Nashville sojourn that has produced the new album, Jessica worked with some of Music City’s elite. Producer and co-composer Jeff Cohen has a catalogue of hits and BMI Awards, for the Band Perry’s ‘Postcards From Paris,’ Evan & Jaron’s ‘Crazy For This Girl’ and Big & Rich’s ‘Holy Water,’ in a songbook that’s also attracted the likes of Sugarland, Josh Groban and others, with chart appearances from Australia to Holland and South Africa to Germany.

Clemmons started her recording adventure in 2008, and savoured the creative learning curve of her first album ‘Permanent,’ released the following year. She started her transatlantic visits in those days too, continuing to build her fan base with the second album ‘Loving This Day,’ released in summer 2012. More recently the band have toured with Boyzone.

(Biography sourced from: C2C Website)

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About the Author

Amy

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I live for the experience of live music. Nashville is my kind of town and life feels pretty good at a country concert in the sun with a cold beer in hand. My appreciation of country came via my Dad’s collection in the 70’s and 80’s and I spent my teens listening to Springsteen. On a trip to the states about ten years ago I flicked to the CMT channel and Brad Paisley’s Whiskey Lullaby had me hooked. Since then my love of the genre has seen me travel to the US regularly to attend concerts, festivals and more intimate songwriter sessions in some great venues. It is terrific to see artists making the return trip this side of the Atlantic but equally refreshing to see some fantastic homegrown talent gaining recognition. This is an exciting time for “new country” and I am very happy to be along for the ride.