Fans of Rascal Flatts and other slick, harmony-heavy country groups will find much to enjoy about the Eli Young Band, whose songs borrow from rock and pop without ever fully entering either camp. The flagship track on this major-label debut is "When It Rains," a holdover from the band's independent release in 2005. Like the other 11 songs on Jet Black & Jealous, the revamped version of "When It Rains" gleams with commercial sheen, from its polished vocals to the crisp mix of banjo, pedal steel, and electric guitar. But there's also a fiery quality to the song, whose twang is balanced by Nashville-gothic lyrics ("It's good to see the world in pain when I take a walk outside") and rock & roll guitars. Moments like that are the best part about Jet Black & Jealous. This isn't country music in the tractor-driving, American flag-waving sense; it's country music with pop production and rock muscle, and the album sounds its strongest whenever it's occupying the three-way intersection between those genres. "Radio" is tailor-made for its titular medium, "Always the Love Songs" borrows an intro from the Wallflowers' "6th Avenue Heartache," and "Throw and Go" is a dark, dangerous rock song dressed up in cowboys' clothing. Jet Black & Jealous thrives on that sort of contrast, and the Eli Young Band's official debut is promising indeed.
Andrew Leahey, Rovi