The Cavalry – Build Your Own Empire
The debut EP from The Cavalry, an one man act featuring the mutli-talented Tristan Jackson, is one of the most well-rounded efforts yet to emerge from the Nashville Rock genre. This commercially aimed combination of southern rock, pop music, and traditional country naturally favors the pop side of the spectrum in its hope of reaching the widest possible audience, but it gains much authenticity from its use of the southern rock and traditional country genres to add some needed gravitas to its smooth presentation. The more raucous tracks on Build Your Own Empire are staged in a very dramatic, almost anthemic fashion while still heavily relying on each composition’s melodic strengths for ultimate success. Jackson has also garnered considerable acclaim as a capable actor who has appeared in a number of top flight A-movies, but Build Your Own Empire proves that his talents are much greater than what many might have initially assumed.
The first track “JFK Intro” opens Build Your Own Empire on a decidedly upbeat note incorporating a recorded speech from former President Kennedy and a bright, swirling musical composition that accomplishes much in a relatively short amount of time. The first proper song, “Don’t Mean You’re Gone”, has a potpourri of elements, particularly lyrical content and some important chord changes, which are classic country to the core. The flairs of electric guitar laced through the song never threaten to dominate the musical landscape, but they infuse much needed grittiness into an otherwise bubbly track. “Wake Up Call”, featuring the emotional backing vocals of Kristie Lane, is the closest that Build Your Own Empire comes to an outright ballad, but it is marked by the same forcefulness and sonic swirl that listeners hear in the EP’s other four songs. The lush characteristics of “Wake Up Call” also never risk self-indulgence or become too overwrought.
“When The Radio’s Gone” takes a mid-tempo pace during the verses that dramatically picks up for the chorus. The interweaving of guitar fills, piano, shimmering keyboard wash, and tasteful yet propulsive drumming is a winning recipe that Jackson tops off with an impassioned vocal. The same impassioned style finds a perfect complement with the contributions of The Voice singer Nolan Neal on the EP’s last track “Red, White, & Blue Jeans”. Many of Jackson’s songs draw from the mainstream of both music and modern American life while still standing apart thanks to Jackson’s personality exerting considerable influence over how these songs sound in the end. The final song is very much in a tradition, but it’s a tradition that Jackson leaves covered with his fingerprints. The remixes are inventive re-imaginings of three songs from the album – the finale, “Wake Up Call”, and “When the Radio’s Gone – that provide listeners with decidedly different slants on the material without ever veering too far away from the original source. The Cavalry’s Build Your Own Empire is very much an album of its time, but it rings with such signature universality that a discerning listener will find it impossible to not hear the life and experience fueling its creation.
9 out of 10 stars.