Arkansan auteur Billy Jeter serves a plate of feel-good audio food with his newest album “Shine Eye Landing”. Coming hot off his former albums “House on Fire” and “Songdog Blues”, both of which are very good, 2020 saw the release of his single “Sins of Me”, which is present on this album. I truly can’t understate how much joy you can get from revisiting his discography because his growth as an artist is clearly on display. The man is a natural storyteller with plenty to draw from coming from a family that’s been multigenerational Arkansas residents.
“Sins of Me” despite being a slow mood piece where Jeter sings indirectly about his shortcomings and the many curveballs life has brought him, but heavily implied that they are of his own doing is one of the best produced on the album. It has an almost wall-of-sound approach where the instrumentals are very powerful and rightly so, they sound fantastic, and the lyrics are like poetry, less concerned about straightforward narrative sense (though there are a few songs more in line conventionally speaking) than conveying a strong mood. It’s an album driven by feelings and that also comes through with Jeter’s distinct singing voice that has the wistfulness like an urban legend song-man trekking across a vast world. “Cut You Down” has shades of a missing Johnny Cash B-side with how somber the material is, even more than “Sins of Me”.
The album is pretty brisk, clocking in at a little over 30 minutes and Jeter makes every second count. He’s joined primarily by the occasional female-led backing vocal and the reinforcement they provide helps the album sound cinematic and wide. It’s a truly textural piece where you can feel every place, element, and experience that Jeter has felt. The ending of the album is a bit of an anomaly for me as far as placement goes.
“The Apostle” is a jaunty country ditty that feels like something you’d hear in a peppy show like Oklahoma, and I think its placement was there as to not leave the audience on the more dower notes that are scattered primarily through the album, but there’s something kind of for lack of a better term “child-like” about it. I think “That’s Just the Way We Roll” might have been a stronger middle man of an ending offering both thoughtful rumination on childhood, but also coming of age as well, where the Apostle while lyrically dense, just comes across as too light for a proper closer, despite being a fine song. Country fans looking for a level of craftsmanship that eschews back to the likes of the aforementioned Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell and even hints of beat poets like Cohen and Dylan should look no further.
It’s accessible enough without ever being pretentious or inauthentic and I can see plenty of people finding this a musical highlight for 2021. Seeing as this is only his third album, it remains to be seen what the future holds for Jeter, but if this album is any indicator, his future is shining bright.