Album Review: Jayne Denham – Moonshine

Review by Peter Coates –

Released – May 3rd 2024

This is Australian country music at its peak – superbly crafted and produced, but displaying raw emotions while evoking a gritty sense of the prohibition era through a set of great songs, sourced from a number of the world’s finest current country music artists and songwriters,  delivered by Jayne Denham in the next evolution of her era-inspired albums.

This is the follow-up to the 2022 cracker of Wanted, which I regarded as one of the best Australian releases of that year, and moving on from the spaghetti western days, this release mixes up a big pot of rugged outlaw tales from the whisky-running hoods in the hills, through a brilliant set of modern country tracks seasoned with a true commercial southern rock and commercial radio-friendly sound.

Moonshine was produced by songwriters and producers Brian White, who has earned sixteen #1 songs, two Dove Awards for Song of the Year, and the recent #1 “Blame It On You” (Jason Aldean), and Grammy-nominated songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Brian Bunn, whose songs have been recorded by Lee Brice, Jackson Dean, Chase Matthew, Parmalee, and more.

The album opens with a short refrain of guitar and violin over a barroom hubbub, with some evocative vocals, and this rips right into the title track, released in 2023 and featuring Colt Ford with his distinctive vocals.  Moonshine is a foot-stomping number, with some tricky banjo picking over a pounding drum-beat which is guaranteed to get the audience jumping, and will no doubt have a harder edge live.  Colt Ford provides the spoken-word middle-section and some gruff backing vocals, while Jayne’s clean pure vocals soar over the melodies.

Jayne’s mates from Hurricane Fall join her for the Miranda Lambert, Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall penned Are You Ready, which is one of the best tracks on the record, with a crushing guitar-riff, some tight accents from Dusty on the kit, and a hugely-catchy chorus.  There is a ripper of a guitar solo, and Jayne opens her pipes up for the lead line, sharing vocal duties with JV and Pepper.   This deserves to be a huge country-rock hit.

Chain Smokin’ (Brandy Clark, Matt Jenkins, Trevor Rosen) is perfect for Jayne’s sultry voice, and sees some great slide and steel guitar work weaving over the simple beat, while Poison (George Strait) is the only real ballad on the record.  The two Brians have been able to accentuate all the best qualities of Jayne’s voice in the lead and harmony vocals across the record, and the backing musicians are clearly from the top drawer, with some beautiful violin highlighted on this one. 

Jayne moves from the heart-wrenching ballad into a cheeky, upbeat groove with Stunt Double, that sees some excellent drumming from Grady Saxman and tight guitar work from Brian Bunn and the band.  Another track that will get the crowd bumping and grinding, and lends itself to some serious boot-scooting on the dancefloor.  The album has just 10 tracks, and none of them are longer than 3m 40s, but there is a lot crammed into them all.  Risk It All shows that Jayne can also write a great song, and her vocals here are just sensational across the whole range, while the band absolutely lets rip, with some epic harmonica work at the forefront.  This is a complex track, with the various instruments laying down complementary patterns and melodies, and is held together by the super-tight drum and bass line.

The lead vocals on the record really elevate Jayne to the highest levels of female country music artists, not just in Australia, but alongside the likes of Miranda Lambert, Ashley McBryde, Shania Twain and Carrie Underwood to name a few, and she remains very much true to her country roots while being able to add an impressive commercial pop-rock edge to the songs.   This is really evident from Lovin’ A Wild Thing which is a slow-burner that powers up into a searing anthem to misplaced love and desire, including another short but explosive guitar solo before the mid-song interlude, and the build-up to the final couple of choruses.  

The second single is Face Of The Sun, again redolent of raw emotion and with a gritty edge to the main vocal line.  The band takes over for the stop-start middle-eight, and then we are back for a couple more choruses, with the lead guitar playing licks and breaks around the vocals.  The record closes with a return to the Moonshine theme, and Moonshine Money, which is a country-rock banger, and a perfect way to round off this superb set. There is a sleazy Cadillac 3 vibe once the track gets going, and the lead vocal line again has that rough edge alongside the clarity of the main line.  Brian Bunn again delivers a slick solo, and the backing track is heavy and solid throughout.

There is not a single filler on this record, and Jayne’s lead vocals are a real standout – showing development and growth from the Wanted album, and if she can translate this impressive studio work into an equally solid live set, she should be able to command much larger venues, and get herself on some international tour supports, to get her the additional exposure she clearly deserves.

To accompany the Moonshine album, Jayne has partnered with Franklin County Distillery, located in the mountains of Virginia, known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World,” to release her own line of two different-flavoured moonshines, Ridge Runner Pear and Orchard Peach.   These should be available to test at the album launch this week.

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Moonshine video : 

On Tour:

May 3, 2024 – Moonshine Launch Party at The Beer Shed
May 4, 2024 – Charters Towers Country Music Festival
May 17, 2024 – Harmonie German Club
Jun. 7, 2024 – Freemasons Hotel Molong
Jun. 15, 2024 – Barra & Boots Music Festival Lake Proserpine in the Whitsundays
Jun. 21, 2024 – Moonshiners Tamworth
Jun. 28, 2024 – Stag & Hunter Hotel, Newcastle
Jul 5, 2024 – Astor Hotel Goulburn
Jul. 6, 2024 – Oaks Hotel Albion Park Rail
Jul. 23, 2024 – Camden Hotel
Sept. 27, 2024 – Texas QLD Country Music Festival
Oct. 26, 2024 – Mandurah Country Music Festival
Nov. 29, 2024 Roma QLD Country Music Festival

Photo credit – Tony Mott
Photo credit – Tony Mott