Let’s not waste words. Or avoid a play on words. Jumping Over Rocks represents a sizeable leap in Jamie Lin Wilson’s still budding solo career. It already took a certain amount of nerve—and verve—to leave an established band and venture out on one’s own. So credit Wilson with possessing the skill and savvy needed to successfully make the transition from her former folk co-op, the Trishas, and opt to go out alone.
Happily, the risk paid off. Two albums in, Wilson’s quickly established herself as a knowing chronicler of heartache and hardship whose means of expression is a consistent sense of unflinching honesty. It becomes her means of looking at the life’s underside with all its its attendant sorrows. The centerpiece of this album, “Death & Life,” describes the void left by one man’s passing, as felt by a wife who grieves the loss of her late husband of 40 years some three years on, a son who struggles to carry on his father’s legacy and the children who make a game of skipping over headstones, equating hopscotch with the circle of life.
The album itself begins on a somber note, a sobering torch song that turns its title, “Faithful & True,” into a heartfelt testament to unwavering love and devotion. Once it’s out of the way, the rest of the record comes on with a drive and determination that overrides any obstacles. “I can make it back to you, maybe no one will get hurt,” Wilson sings on the resolute “The Being Gone.” “Oklahoma Stars” strikes a similarly resolute stance, an uplifting ode to undeterred optimism and perseverance that makes it one of the more moving offerings in a set of songs that rings with resilience throughout. The gentle, ambling “Eyes for You” captures the feelings that come when two people first grapple with the initial allure that draws them together, its lilting pedal steel underscoring its sweet serenade.
The album’s sole cover, a duet with Jack Ingram on Guy Clark’s “Instant Coffee Blues” returns to that theme of courtship and contention. The tender “If I Told You” does the same. “Run” takes the opposite tact; underscored by Trevor Nealon’s predominant piano playing, it recalls Dolly Parton’s wise perspective in offering sage advice on when a woman ought to leave a relationship and keep her dignity intact.
Wilson’s mastered the art of combining insight and emotion, often a combination that’s difficult to achieve. As 2018 comes to a quick close, Jumping Over Rocks deserves last minute consideration as one of the best efforts of the year.