Album | The Baptist Generals – Jackleg Devotional To The Heart

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The Baptist Generals’ sophomore album begins like a schizophrenic soundtrack to an Atari computer game, beeping and buzzing as a guitar tries to make up its mind which key to play in. ‘Machine En Prolepis’ does settle down after a while, but only a little, and it sets the tone for a second dose of the Generals’ brand of slightly claustrophobic folk, music that always has an edge, is never at ease, like every other note is actually a nervous tick.

‘Jackleg Devotional To The Heart’ is a sophomore album 10 years in the making, and emerges into the light like a recluse making those first few uncertain steps back into society. It shuffles rather than strides, always ever so slightly awkward and sometimes almost apologetic for that fact. But this is not a complaint. Just as though you were watching a real-life person making their way back, you find yourself somehow rooting for the album to make it.

And you can track the progress. While the early part of the record is full of quirky sounds, as it moves forward you can sense its eyes adjusting to the light of day and there are some real moments of beauty. The sweeping ‘My Oh My’ and the delicate ‘Morning of My Life’ feel like the end of a long journey, the ironing out of all that uncertainty which marked the first half of that record.

While they have taken their time in doing it, the band have succeeded on their stated mission – the one which saw them scrap the first attempt at a follow-up album in 2005 because it sounded like plain old indie-rock – they’ve produced a coherent album that is uniquely theirs.

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