Country music has been having a bit of moment lately. Edit that. Post-modern country music, that is, has been having a moment. Since the 2010s an increasing amount of mass interest has been shifting to a once exclusive musical medium, far outside the standard country music fanbase. Part of this is musicians continuing to play with the medium, honoring the genre’s timeless strengths while updating and improving various qualities to better suit their own, individualistic interpretations. A new name that has popped up in the latter camp is Ohio native Jenson David, with the release of his new single Four Leaf Clover.
When it comes to distribution, David represents an entirely new facet to musical spheres, not just country. Courtesy of complications stirred by the Covid-19 pandemic, artists belonging to both big and independent labels are toying with more creative forms of circulation — leading to the inception of digital releases like Taylor Swift’s new albums Folklore and Evermore respectively, to David’s previous effort Not Forgotten. The difference is David, a seemingly proud supporter and member of the indie music scene, has self-distributed both singles to date.
As a result, there is an odd riskiness and coherence to them that feels untamed and inspiring — they’re the kind of songs unfettered by a fibrillating studio executive. The lyrics are raw and somewhat antiquated, if in the best way. With Four Leaf Clover, David proves chivalry isn’t dead and rather than focusing on millennial topics of fascination such as fame, sex, or power, he harkens back to a time when things were simpler, pre-internet days to put it lightly. David’s aesthetic as well as his background calls to mind the soulfulness of a Dwight Yoakam album. Both men’s true craft belongs to their ability to evoke a rich and multi-layered experience reminiscent of the bluegrass stomping grounds, while communicating such sentiments in a way that is both accessible and feels contemporarily-minded.
David however breaks away from his predecessors in that he is completely and unapologetically emotional. The most progressive aspect of David’s performative abilities is his ability to communicate bare and stripped emotive qualities without overemphasis or being a fabulist. Viscerally you think more of the rugged haunting of a one Vincent Gallo from Buffalo 66 than standard hat-tipping, boot-wearing masculinity. Country in spite of its sentimental qualities hasn’t exactly been known for being overtly melancholic in a literal sense. More it’s consisted of artists communicating whatever soliloquies they desire through a medium that can still entertain. David respects this formula — both Four Leaf Clover and Not Forgotten never entirely stray away from a realm comparable to easy listening — while tipping it a little closer to a product that might squeeze your tear ducts. He wants there to be something ghostly, something that stays with you long after the track ends, and it’s hard to put your finger on it. Maybe it’s the ambience added into the sound mixing of the track, or the slight echo to the design of his vocals in post. Either way, it works, and it would be a shame if he were to stop now…