On The Baptist Generals’ sophomore album, the word “heart” repeats eight*** times. The Denton, TX band, known for its haunting, claustrophobic take on drunken folk, needed ten full years to bare its hearts—one of which is in the album title, Jackleg Devotional to the Heart, a name that songwriter Chris Flemmons conjured shortly after he recorded, and then trashed, the album’s first attempt in 2005.
Flemmons goes so far as to call this his “love album,” and it’s an apt description—though love through The Baptist Generals’ eyes is plenty complicated. Jackleg‘s hearts don’t resemble valentines. No smooth curls into a final point. The band’s vibraphones, guitarrons and ambient feedback combine like a mess of ventricles, aortas and veins—not to mention, from the sound of it, all of the blood spilled while Jackleg lurched for years toward an eventual finish line.
Call it a love record, then. It’s the kind of love Flemmons had to figure out in the ten years since The Baptist Generals’ critically-acclaimed 2003 full-length debut No Silver/No Gold, a period in which he admits he’s fallen in love with a wild spectrum of music—the Ethiopiques series, saxophonist Archie Shepp, film scorer Meredith Willson, and plenty more. That wide spectrum only befits Jackleg‘s repeated need to buck genre; in fact, the 2005 version of the album hit the trash heap because “it sounded like any other indie rock-type band,” Flemmons admits. Co-produced by Stuart Sikes (Loretta Lynn, Cat Power, The Walkmen, Modest Mouse, The White Stripes) and the band’s Jason Reimer, Jackleg Devotional to the Heart sounds like exactly no one else.