There’s historic precedent for No Saint, the debut album from Texas-born singer/songwriter Lauren Jenkins — but it may not be what you’d expect. The album was released in conjunction with a short film, an audio-visual pairing that was inspired by Beyonce’s Lemonade. It’s a contemporary reference point that contextualizes Jenkins as a thoroughly modern country singer, and it sets the stage for an album that upholds tradition without ever feeling especially beholden to it. Just listen to the opening “Give Up the Ghost,” where a high-and-lonesome pedal steel winds its way through thunderous drums and a fist-pumping chorus, gestures equally suited to a honky tonk or an arena rock show. Such blurred lines fill the album: “You’ll Never Know” is the kind of flinty, diaristic pop that made Taylor Swift a star; “All Good Things” is a big-footed stomp that crackles with twang and distortion; “Makers Mark and You” is a smooth and smoky ballad in the vein of Norah Jones. The latter is one of the few instances where Jenkins’s writing isn’t sharp enough to transcend convention — it’s a whisky song that never quite develops a unique point of view — but it’s also an exception to the rule.
More often, Jenkins writes with a real edge, as on “Payday,” where she revels in the freedom to transmute her weekly check into boozy revelry, no kids, nor a mortgage, to pin her down. And in the title song, she turns to the Holy Bible to lead her out of heartache. “Heaven says I need to forgive you, but I ain’t no saint,” she confesses — the kind of pivot some country songwriters would kill for. Such barbs show-up repeatedly on No Saint, which winningly conceals its heart of darkness behind a glistening, smooth surface — making it an album of depth and achievement, whether you pair it with the movie or just jam it in your Cadillac.
Published as part of Rooted & Restless | Issue 2