Having proved one of this year’s must-see acts at the ever-growing Country to Country Festival, we found ourselves stuck in a queue longer than any we saw the whole weekend to just catch a glimpse of Jess and the Bandits’ set at the Brooklyn Bowl. Managing to gain entry just in time for the final song, it was apparent that the quintet have come a very long way since they started playing together on the Boyzone tour at the tail end of 2013. At the time Jess was a soloist celebrated for her big voice and her Radio 2 dominating singalong ‘Single Tonight’, but the chemistry with Dave, Louis, Ricci and Steve proved so infectious that the group knew they only had one way forward. And the music is better place for it.
With their live set one of the finest you will ever witness, the pressure is certainly on for the band to now deliver on their heavily anticipated debut studio album. And thankfully they far from disappoint. Opening the collection with the riotous romp that is ‘Ready Set’, Jess and the Bandits make it clear that they are the band you’d most like to try drink under the table in 2015.
Flipping proceedings immediately on their head, Jess and the Bandits reign in their naughty streak for a duo of radio friendly mid-tempos. The outstanding ‘Love Like That’ is as goosebump inducing on record as it was when it was delivered as a solo number on the Boyzone tour. The pretty ‘You Can’t Stop Me’ is destined for radio dominating glory with its easy to sing melody and tight delivery.
Boasting a vocal that rivals the country greats Reba, Shania and Faith, but with a naughty edge that puts her on par with the feisty Wynonna, Jess really shines when she channels her inner minx. The direct ‘Wanted Man’, upfront ‘My Name Is Trouble’ and dizzying ‘Drunk On Me’ all demonstrate a lyrical wisdom that is reminiscent of the Dixie Chicks, The Pistol Annies and Kacey Musgraves, while Jess’ powerful vocal sets her apart from the all the aforementioned as someone just as exciting in her own right.
With the album a perfect balance of the dancefloor romps and smooching slow-tempos, Jess and the Bandits have not buckled under the pressure. What they have delivered is a well-rounded, well-executed, musically tight but truly exciting debut. Closing off proceedings with a mesmerizing reworking of Glen Campbell’s ‘Wichita Lineman’, it is clear that Jess and the Bandits are about to break the big time.
Jess and the Bandits may only be a year old, but they have quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with.