In the age of skimming albums, you might be quick to judge the full-length Poems, Prayers, Stories, Songs, and Sayings from Ry Jennings as a Country album. There’s certainly a twang to his voice, as well as plenty of gently rolling acoustic guitars and lyrical tales of God and the Devil. However, if you allow yourself to pause and enjoy a few minor details, you’ll notice that there’s a whole lot more to this release than such an over simplification.
“Robot Cowboy” exemplifies this attention to detail as it manages to combine a space-age lead and narrative about an actual robot with a horse clomping percussion that couldn’t sound more like the Old West if it wanted to. This genuinely surprising combination of instrumentation happens consistently throughout the record. “Thank You (Jeff and Jeffrey)” hops along with a jaunty percussion and a swirling flute, “When I Die” delivers mandolin and a deathwish to go to hell and “Heavenly Father“, though instrumental, still manages to combine a western whistle with shockingly unnerving field recordings.
The more time you invest in Poems, Prayers, Stories, Songs, and Sayings the more you realize what a delightful potpourri of styles you’re dealing with. It sincerely embraces the basics of Folk and Country but expertly turns them on their head by integrating just about sound Jennings feels will tell his story best. If “Robot Cowboy” doesn’t hit your Best Of lists, it’s a sin.