Des Moines, Iowa native Max Jury’s name might sound like a fictional crime-fighter or action flick. But he’s 100 percent real and, judging by the singer-songwriter’s self titled debut, is capable of writing a winning collection of songs with a lot of heart and swagger that defies his young age. Jury, who also plays piano and guitar, grew up listening to all sorts of music, including country, soul, gospel and rock ‘n’ roll. It’s no surprise then that his debut sports a conglomeration of these styles. The songs combine elements of these various styles into a harmonious mix, especially when the gospel-like choir kicks in. It’s a collection bolstered by stellar production and Jury exerting a lot of energy in his vocal and instrumental performances.
As noted by Ben Rosner’s write-up for Jury’s Paste live session, “Jury’s songs bring to mind many classic songwriters of the Laurel Canyon area, as well as musicians such as Billy Joel, Elton John and Carole King.” After listening to the album, I came to the same conclusion. Like Laurel Canyon-based Dawes and others, many of the songs have much of those vintage country-soul songwriting elements, feeling simultaneously timeless and fresh. While it might not be for those looking for something ultra modern or cutting edge, these songs ultimately feel immediate and engaging and worth multiple listens.
Jury recorded part of the album at Electric Lady Studios in New York City before finishing it at a friend’s home studio in North Carolina. Jury reached out to church music director Jackson Russell, whose fingerprints are all over the album. Along with his three cousins, Russell helped inject a strong gospel-soul element to Jury’s mostly country-based roots. Russell’s cousin’s created the aforementioned gospel-like choir that further elevate the energy of many of Jury’s songs, like single “Numb,” which opens the album.
Another personal favorite is “Love That Grows Old,” where Jury sings about finding real love that lasts and not just fantasizing about finding one. “It’s not love if you don’t have to struggle,” he sings. “It’s not enough if it don’t cause you trouble.” Many of Jury’s songs talk about finding one’s path in life, sometimes physically or figuratively, and navigating the rollercoaster that is life.
“I’m a long, long way from home,” he sings on the final track, “Home.” While his path might take him far away from where he grew up in Iowa, it’s evident that he hasn’t forgotten his roots and his songs are his way of chronicling and understanding his journey.