Jimmy Goings’ “Late Check-In”
Surreal, at times postmodern, consistently visually provocative but not quite enigmatic in the way that so many of its stylistic counterparts on the mainstream side would be, Jimmy Goings’ “Now is the Time,” one of the more standout performances on his record Late Check-In, is quite the captivating piece, to say the least. Much like the album that spawned its arrival, this song demonstrates just how much organic melodicism outweighs monolithic hooks and plasticized poeticisms in Jimmy Goings’ work, and while it’s hardly the only gem to behold in the treasure chest of tonality and texture that is Late Check-In, it may well be the most accessible and radio-ready of the fourteen songs included in the tracklist.
Goings’ vocal is at the center of almost every song here (including in the more stately “You Make Us Want to Cry” and even the captivating number “Records from Mars,” both of which threw chills down my back as much as any of the more lyric-driven compositions on the LP did), and in tracks like “World at War,” “Is It Just Me” and “Crazy Like Me,” it tells us even more through a mere tone about the context of the verses than the music does. There’s a lot of passion in every word that comes spilling from his lips in this album, and although some examples tend to shine brighter than others – “American Dreams,” “Now is the Time” – there isn’t a single song on Late Check-In that I would consider filler from a critical perspective.
The stripped-down master mix that Goings decided to go with in this LP accentuates the raw textures we discover in “We Were One,” “The Last Tear,” “Soldier of Fortune” and “He’s in Your Mind” (just to name a few) beautifully, and while some of his closest rivals on the indie side of the alternative country genre might have gone with something a bit more indulgent in this instance – if for no other reason than to emphasize understated elements of complexity and surrealism in the music – he was smart to stick with a barebones filtration with every song here. There’s a lot for us to dig into in Late Check-In without having to pick apart clutter in the grander scheme of things, and by avoiding the pitfalls of excess, this artist wound up delivering one of the most poignant albums of its kind to see release in 2023.
I hadn’t heard his work before just recently, but I’ve fallen in love with Jimmy Goings’ unassumingly brooding approach to songcraft after sitting down with Late Check-In this past week. Devoid of the needless pandering and self-absorbed commentaries that frequently beset alternative country records with as ambitious a design as this one is sporting, Goings’ new LP doesn’t ask anything from its audience in exchange for a wealth of creative energy and a familiar, unsophisticated emotion in the most exposed state we’ve seen it in to date. This player has come a long way in the last few years, and his progress is evidenced in this melodic wonder of an album.