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.