Ty Herndon has been on an incredible journey for the past few years since he became one of the most prominent county music artists to date to come out as gay, following on fromk.d. lang (who came out in an interview with The Advocate as far back as 1992), Chely Wright in 2010, Billy Gilman who was inspired by Ty’s announcement to also come out very shortly after in 2014, and, more recently, TJ Osborne from Brothers Osborne.
For Ty, coming out publicly in 2014 was a seminal and brave moment, both personally and professionally. In a bid to help others in the same situation, he set up his Foundation for Love & Acceptance, also creating the foundation’s annual concert and award show, and continues to work as a tireless advocate for the cause.
Ty’s latest release, Jacob, his first since 2016’s House on Fire,and named after the Old Testament figure, bears testament the fruits of that bravery; a free, unfettered spirit now unencumbered by guilt, able to sing about love, loss, and heartache with all the passion in his heart and holding absolutely nothing back.
In a recent interview with Philadelphia Gay News Ty said“This album says everything I’ve always wanted to say. There are very deep and emotional, hidden moments in all these songs. I’m battling the scars and getting them out of me and letting go of so much.”
Jacob’s 11 tracks represent Ty’s journey from dark to light,not just since his coming out, but dealing with other aspects of his life from much earlier than that. It showcases his incredible range as a vocalist and musician, with flavours of not just country, but also gospel, soul, and rock.
Jacob’s journey is bookended by the driving country rock of opening two tracks Till You Get There and Dents on a Chevy, featuring guest vocalist Terri Clark, and closing track Damn Good Feeling, complete with lush backing vocal harmonies. It’s a wonderfully hopeful note to end on.
The midsection of the album deals with several other aspectsof Ty’s journey, including love and heartbreak (he recently broke up with his partner Matt). Lean In is a beautiful duet with the song’s co-writer, Jamie Floyd, and Landslide features the velvety vocals of Shelly Fairchild.
Speaking of Hallelujah, the hopeful hymn to love, Ty told Philadelphia Gay News that the track is “A love song to my future person, wherever he is.”
Say it For You is a sultry Latin-tinged tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a Mavericks album, featuring sweeping strings and a burst of stunning vocal gymnastics from Voice finalist Wendy Moten, who’s due to play some shows at the Ryman with Vince Gill this coming August (and boy does Vince know a good vocalist when he hears one!). An appearance not to be missed if this performance is anything to go by! More please.
Without doubt the album’s most sombre moment, but also its most transformative and revelatory one, is God or the Gun, with lyrics that reflect when the singer was in such despair he contemplated taking his own life. The frankness of the lyrics and the power of Ty’s achingly authentic vocal performance hit home like a hammer blow to the solar plexus and will resonate with many. Coming after the upbeat opening tracks, it’s a stark reminder that the journey from dark to light is far from easy, and that not everybody makes it through to the other side. There are many great songs on Jacob, but I suspect that God or the Gun will be the one that most stays with the listener.
This album is a must-listen, not just for Ty’s fans who love his music and want to hear the story of the journey of his life so far, good and bad, but also in a wider sense it could be seen to represent the journey from dark to light that so many others have experienced over the last two difficult years, with so many suffering from isolation, loneliness, poverty, addiction, illness, despair, and trauma. This is a truly uplifting journey that urges everyone to never give up hope, even when it seems there’s no hope left to be found. A brighter day could be just around the corner.
Review By Maura Sutton