Jackson County Line Gets It Across

Taking into consideration the geographic and demographic makeup of Georgia, Jackson County is a bit of a backwoodsy place peppered with picturesque small towns such as Jefferson and Maysville, but it’s not like it’s that far out in the sticks. Its border nudges Gwinnett County to the west and rests alongside Clarke County (Athens) to the southeast, and I-85 plows right through it, zooming past hoity Chateau Elan.

In certain respects, a description of Atlanta quintet Jackson County Line is similar. Formed in 2006, they make mature, attentively crafted rock with lingering strands of dirt road country – you could call their music Americana, or heartland rock, or country-rock, but it’s not that far out in the sticks.

The band’s latest album, Long Play, kicks off with a cluster of songs that seems intent on firing a meatier meteor though the soft-soap/easygoing atmosphere they’ve established on prior releases. Though he primarily (and smartly) sticks within a familiar comfort zone with his rich, soulful voice, songwriter Kevin Jackson actually rises to a bloodcurdling scream on “Sheriff Joe,” and it’s a little startling. Let loose to traverse the front lines, the tasteful and versatile mastery of lead guitarist Jonny Daly is a large factor in the formula that gives these songs their heft. Whether ripping, peeling, boiling or catapulting into the cosmos like a shivering comet, the temperaments Daly tears out of his instrument are tremendous. The lineup is balanced by the considerable talents of bass guitarist Greg Partridge (Susi French Connection, Gentle Readers), drummer Paul Barrie (Ric Seymour & the Groove, Chris Stalcup & the Grange, Cigar Store Indians) and cellist Tim Anderson, whose accents lend a dramatic, dark touch. JCL’s sleepytime tendencies return for the album’s midsection, and they don’t strike gold with every song, but overall this is the band’s strongest outing to date.

Jackson County Line have built up a modest but highly devoted following, and sold out their record release show at Eddie’s Attic in February. Who knows when they’ll be able to set foot on an actual stage again (next show listed on their Facebook page is Oct. 16 at Madlife in Woodstock), but the combination of their comfortable nature and command of their material lends a whole other dimension to these songs in a live setting.