In the indicative 'Great American Novel' from Max Jury's self-titled debut, the multi-influenced singer-songwriter laments, "It was a golden age, being lost in love." And that's a running theme in the Iowan's work, a sense of time and place, of a real but lost America, described by a man deep in observations of others as his own world slips away. Despite this, Jury imagines an America in warm colour not unsympathetic black and white; a lost America welcoming with open arms.
Jury's varied influences make him difficult to pin down, and all the better for it. He darts between country, blues, and rock & roll; spiritual and gospel with church music director Jackson Russell helping production, notably in the gospel cadence and choral harmonies of opening track 'Numb’. The voice is special, its register delivering an inclusive maternal (not paternal) feel, a guiding hand to get one back on track rather than drowning one's sorrows. And there are sorrows to drown, such as "Mama's popping pills on Christmas Day" in ‘Princess’ with a knight in shining armour – whatever form this takes – ensuring hope beats despair. With perfect tone on an angelic cushion, Jury bends a note knowing where to put the emphasis without needing a woo-hoo-hoo. An infatuation with 1960s-country was once thought of as uncool, an idea fading with voices as magical as these.
A Laurel Canyon feel runs deep: 'Standing On My Own' captures the region’s sun-kissed 1970s-relaxed pace, "You've been changing, almost changing since the moment we met" rallying against a changing world; 'Beg and Crawl' offers an easier nostalgia of driving with hair flying in the wind; 'Ella's Moonshine' is traditional with lyrics "Fried tomatoes, cherry wine"; Jury doesn’t wish to resort to type but allows some slide-guitar indulgence in 'Little Jean Jacket'. Closing track 'Home' may be autobiographical with its refrain "I'll be back someday, I'm a long way from home" reminding of Simon and Garfunkel's ‘Homeward Bound’ but unlike Paul Simon, we already know Jury could be missing his time not only space.
Max Jury is a man who needs to reach out to his musical heritage, gaining early recognition with the track 'Christian Eyes' whose lyrics imagine himself and a partner as Gram Parsons and Patsy Cline. In line with this heritage, heartache plays a fundamental role, and he has lived more than many in his short years, the real life experience gained from dropping out of music college to work on the land doubtless helping the quality – and authenticity – of his album. A worry is Jury using all up all of his heartache at an early age, but one believes a long career beckons, together with a page in the Great American Songbook.