Smoke and Mirrors by Jess and the Bandits (Album Review)

“SMOKE & MIRRORS”, the long-awaited second album, by Jess and The Bandits, releases Friday, Sept. 15th, and today, we’re discussing the album that has already been nominated for a 2017 British Country Music Association Album of the Year award. Jess and the Bandits have also been nominated for 2017 BCMA Entertainer of the Year (a category they won at the 2016 BCMAs), Group of the Year, and Video of the Year for “I’m Not Going Home”.

Jess and the Bandits
Smoke &Mirrors is the second album from U.K. country group and last year’s BCMA Entertainer of the Year and Group of the Year, Jess and the Bandits.

Jess and The Bandits proved with their critically acclaimed debut album, “Here We Go Again”, that they were a musical force to be reckoned with. Boasting a rock country sound delivered with raw and real grit and an infectious pop punch, the band have enjoyed the loyal support of BBC Radio and TV, while striking vocalist Jess became the first ever country artist to be announced as an ambassador of a British high street fashion store.

While they last toured the UK at the end of a riotous festival season in 2016, the quintet finally return with “Smoke & Mirrors” – the long-awaited follow-up to 2015’s #6 Official Country Chart charting “Here We Go Again”.

With Jess now at a new stage in her life, having recently announced her engagement after a whirlwind romance with photographer Chris Peavey, the singer-songwriter has been focusing heavily on her music, joining forces with fellow songwriters both in Nashville and the UK in preparation for her next project. “Smoke and Mirrors” boasts the rock country edge of the band’s debut while channeling a raw, real Gospel attitude.

“Smoke & Mirrors” by Jess and the Bandits

Smoke & Mirrors by Jess and the Bandits Album Cover

Album: Smoke & Mirrors
Band: Jessica Clemmons (vocalist), Louis Riccardi (guitar), Dave Troke (bass), Steven Reid Williams (keys), Ricci Riccardi (drums)
Official Singles: Sisters, I’m Not Going Home, Kings of Summer
Runtime: 45 Minutes
Release Date: September 15th, 2017

Connect with Jess and the Bandits

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Album Review

For their second album “Smoke & Mirrors”, US/UK country group Jess and the Bandits have put together an impressive and eclectic mix of songs that showcases the talent and vocal range of its lead singer to perfection. The lead vocals, combined with the beautiful harmonies of the band on whole, makes “Smoke & Mirrors” an incredible listening experience for both new and old fans alike.

With a seamless blend of country, pop, rock, and gospel, “Smoke & Mirrors” sets out to take its audience on a musical and lyrical journey that will have them singing along and finger and toe tapping to the beat right from its addictive album opener, “I’m Not Going Home”.

The band slows things down a little with the title track “Smoke and Mirrors”, a song about a woman who is dreaming of better things and putting on a mask of happiness for others while also telling herself to keep her feet on the ground. And the slow-song journey continues with the Logan Brill cover “World Still Round”  and the cheating-man-woman-empowerment song “White Lies”. The latter track will no doubt be a fan favorite with a clever lyrical hook like, “white lies, black coffee“.

Things pick back up with the smart, fun, mid-tempo sing-along song “Kings of Summer” that speaks to the band’s childhood memories of being “fearless pirates of the night“.  “Gone Girl” might be the most traditional sounding country song on the album while “Sister” is a powerful, towering country-gospel song that quickly sweeps you up in its lyrics and chorus. Both the album opener “I’m Not Going Home” and “Sister” have an all-female gospel choir singing the background vocals on the chorus and it quickly sets the two tracks apart from some of the more country-pop-rock tunes on the album.

“Start A War” is a pop-rock anthem with an almost apocalyptic theme and that, along with attention-grabbing, guitar-driven verses and a strong, vocally-driven chorus, would make this a crowd favorite during live shows.

The lyrics, melodies, and vocals of “Kiss Me Quiet”, “The Bullet”, and “Game Changer” remind me of something Lady Antebellum might’ve recorded while “Already Written” sounds like something Kelsea Ballerini might lay down. All four tracks are modern, emotional songs that stand out and leave an impression on its listeners. The kind of impression that will have most fans returning to listen to each one of these songs again and again.

“Line of Fire” is a track that sounds like a Taylor Swift song crossed with Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats”. It’s a fun, lyrically clever, up-tempo song that would be a serious rocker during a live show. It also happens to be one of my favorites on the album.

“Fault Lines” is the final song on “Smoke & Mirrors” and speaks to a couple who is keeping score about who is more at fault in the ending of their relationship. It’s a pop-country song that could easily find a home on the adult contemporary charts. It’s a sleek, easy-listening song that further cements lead singer Jess as a powerhouse vocalist who has excellent control of her instrument.

On whole, “Smoke & Mirrors” is an album that is sure to surprise and delight its fans. It easily mixes genres to give its audience a truly unique listening experience. And with the band already up for several awards at this year’s British Country Music Association award show, it only further cements Jess and the Bandits as a country group with wide, crossover, genre-bending appeal.

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Standout Tracks: Sister, Game Changer, Start A War, Line of Fire

Album Track List

  1. I’m Not Going Home
  2. Smoke and Mirrors
  3. World Still Round
  4. White Lies
  5. Kings of Summer
  6. Kiss Me Quiet
  7. Gone Girl
  8. Sister
  9. Start a War
  10. The Bullet
  11. Already Written
  12. Game Changer
  13. Line of Fire
  14. Fault Lines

Pre-Order “Smoke & Mirrors” by Jess and the Bandits

Official Videos

Watch “Sisters”

Watch “I’m Not Going Home”

Watch “Kings of Summer”

Deanna | OkieDreams

Deanna Lynn has been a substitute teacher, a baker, a website designer, a ceramic artist, a business co-owner and a sales and marketing manager for a ceramic shop in Oklahoma. She reads widely, laughs often and loves to talk about writing, books, and this confusing thing called life.

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