I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with Billy Jeter’s Shine Eye Landing. The latest release from evolving and nuanced Folk and Country singer/songwriter only tangentially resembles a lot of his older work, but here something’s noticeably different.
His voice is gruffer and more textured and there’s a stronger emphasis on the performance as this act, between singing and nearly acting. I will be decidedly upfront in saying that if you’re a listener who doesn’t really vibe with Folk, and think Country is offputting I HIGHLY implore you to give this album a chance because it isn’t what you think it is. Jeter isn’t some simpleton, but in a way, I think he plays on your preconceived notions. Things on the album start slowly with “Orion”, a song that flies by less like a shooting star and more like a plunging meteor steadily entering the atmosphere. There’s this almost janky sound to it, which isn’t the last time that Jeter messes around with sounds and textures across the album, nearly all to rapturous success. “Shine Eye Landing” captures the mood of a dimly lit night by the water with a loved one. It also makes sense given that this song is nearly about that. You can almost hear the choked-up sounds of Jeter as he looks back to the simpler times with his lover.
A real point of praise I can give this album is that it doesn’t praise any specific time period as being better than now or of “simpler times”, it’s focused on the atmosphere of youth and almost rebellion. You can very clearly hear that in tracks like “That’s Just the Way We Roll”, which literally uses a bevy of examples of insane events that could disrupt the flow of life that Jeter has set out in front of him, but in an almost devil-may-care cartoon aesthetic, it never gets under his skin. If anything, he welcomes dysfunction. The pairing of “Sins of Me” and “Cut You Down” are interesting. They feel the most indicative and homage driven to the sounds of ZZ Top or Johnny Cash. together they weave a narrative of pain and misfortune in life and the encroaching sense of time catching up with us. Jeter adjusts his vocal performance in “Cut You Down” where he sounds increasingly strained and tired like he’s really on the way out from this mortal coil.
The back-end of the album is lighter and a bit more playful with the exception of the mournful funeral pyre that is “Song for Walter”. “Oh Lordy Me”, “the Apostle” and “Spider Lily” lean into the pleasures of life and the promising opportunities to those who take them. Jeter is like a musical Norman Rockwell, using sounds to create a vivid set of images that feel plucked out of storybooks like Brear Rabbit, but aimed towards adults with its sly and deceptive lyrics and mature themes. If you want a challenging album that only rewards you with catharsis as it closes, this is it.