A crowd of hippies and cowboys gathered at San Francisco’s Warfield Saturday night to see Cody Jinks, a scruffy, tatted up troubadour who many believe is saving country music. Far from the polished, pop country acts of Nashville’s tin pan alley, Jinks is a road dog, revealing songwriter and all around relatable guy.
The show opened with “Must Be the Whiskey” from Jinks’ latest album Lifers. Though the record has been out for little more than a week, the crowd joined in on catchy lines like “I’ve been drinking to remember and drinking to forget.”
Not one to shy away from personal lyrics, Jinks’ music rings true for a lot of folks, especially those grappling with issues of love, identity and the uphill slog that is adult life. His songs chronicle years on the road trying to get some traction, and the effects of hard living on his loved ones and liver.
“I know you always worried about me drinking my dinner, but I don’t do that anymore,” Jinks sings in Mama Song, a reassuring message to his mother that now, in his mid-30s, he’s got maturity and a stable home life on his side. Another heartfelt number, Somewhere Between I Love You and I’m Leaving, saw couples in the crowd clearing their own chairs making room to two-step.
The title track of his new album, Lifers, champions the often overlooked, hard-working characters that make up much of his fanbase. It’s a bittersweet tale of changing times and unrealized dreams with an anthemic chorus that implores the subjects to keep pressing on.
The night wasn’t all slow dancing and sentiment, however. Classic honky-tonk songs like Cast No Stones and Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound rang out with twangy steel guitar and inspired a swaying singalong. Jinks’ neoclassical sound has slowly but surely won over fans and put him in the company of country greats like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Heralded as the second wave of outlaw country, Cody Jinks and the show’s opener, Ben Haggard (son of Merle), are doing their part to keep the genre alive and introduce the gritty, down-home sound to a new generation of listeners.
While paying tribute to his musical lineage, Jinks’ performance isn’t a straight reproduction of the earlier era. Once a member of a thrash metal band, the Texas native sports a grizzly beard and a whole lot of tattoos in addition to his black cowboy hat. A hit with the San Francisco audience, Hippies and Cowboys makes reference to his duality and status as an industry outsider.
“I’ve never had a lot of friends, and I’m alright by that,” sings Jinks. It’s a feeling many can relate to in city full of transplants, weirdos, and geeks.
“This guy is going to go down in history,” a fan in the crowd proclaimed. “He’s so approachable, you can walk right up to him.”
While he may not have a lot of friends, Cody Jinks’ audience is certainly growing, thanks in part to his years of persistence and a gregarious nature.
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about,” noted the fan a few moments later as Jinks pulled a blissed-out little kid from the crowd up onto the stage.
Photos by Gina Teichert