The road to Jillian Jacqueline’s debut album release has been a lengthy one. In 2016 Jacqueline signed to Big Loud and released two EPs – 2017’s ‘Side A’ and 2018’s ‘Side B’ – the former providing the moderate airplay hit ‘Reasons’. Over the past few years Jacqueline has spent plenty of time visiting the UK and she was last here in 2019 for a headline show in Hoxton and a support slot on Kip Moore’s UK tour. During those appearances, Jacqueline teased songs from her debut album but then the pandemic hit and she parted ways with her label. In 2020 Jacqueline released the single ‘Wait for the Light’, her first independent release, and she followed that earlier this year with ‘Magic’.
Now as the summer months approach, Jacqueline’s eagerly awaited debut album has finally arrived. ‘Honestly’ is a collection of 11 tracks, released via a new deal with Virgin Music, and it continues the forthright and candid songwriting style that Jacqueline has made her trademark. The album opens with ‘The Ocean’, a song she played at her headline show in Hoxton back in 2019, which now features Charlie Worsham. Lyrically it’s an ode to going through heartache until you find ‘the one’. I recall Jacqueline saying in 2019 that the song was written about her now husband, co-producer and band member, Bryan Brown (the brother of her producer Tofer Brown).
The gears shift for a bluesy tone on second track ‘When It Rains’ as Jacqueline sings of being reminded of a former lover and reminisces about how the relationship was never going to last the course. The steady beat-driven ‘Bandwagon’, co-written with Old Dominion’s Trevor Rosen, explores the push-and-pull nature of the music industry while ‘Hummingbird’ finds Jacqueline pondering on her tendency to want to move onto the next thing once she arrives at the place she thought she wanted to get to.
‘Better With a Broken Heart’, one of the songs released ahead of the album, features Brothers Osborne’s TJ Osborne and it’s one of the more commercial-leaning songs included here. Jacqueline’s soaring voice blends nicely with Osborne’s deep tone as they sing about wallowing in misery following a break-up. Elsewhere on the record the piano-led ‘Iconic’ is an uplifting and optimistic ballad about aiming for the skies and avoiding past mistakes, ‘Magic’ questions whether a spark between two people was misunderstood, and ‘Hurt Somebody Else’ catches Jacqueline thinking about an ex whose heart she broke.
The album’s finest moments come on ‘Compliment’ and ‘Sure’. ‘Compliment’ is one of the album’s rawest songs, capturing a reconnection between former lovers that isn’t quite as sweet as one of them hoped. On ‘Sure’, a co-write with Lori McKenna, Jacqueline lists a series of things she doesn’t feel sure about before settling on being sure in regards to how she feels about her partner. The song features some of the strongest vocals on the record and it’s a stirring moment.
‘Honestly’ comes to a close with ‘Honeymoon’, a reflection on how the beginning of a relationship and those exciting moments early on can never last. It’s a mature look at the course of a relationship and the acceptance that things evolve and change, regardless of what you do to hold on to how they were.
On her debut album, Jacqueline further hones her craft and delivers a set of heart-wrenchingly honest songs. With a voice that holds plenty of emotion, Jacqueline knows how to hit you in the heart and make you feel all warm and fuzzy at the same time. She’s different from every other artist in Country music right now and with ‘Honestly’, she deserves to jump right to the front of the pack. The album has been worth the wait and it feels like Jacqueline may finally get the rewards she’s deserved for so long.
Track list: 1. The Ocean 2. When It Rains 3. Bandwagon 4. Hummingbird 5. Better With a Broken Heart (feat. TJ Osborne) 6. Iconic 7. Compliment 8. Magic 9. Hurt Somebody Else 10. Sure 11. Honeymoon Record label: Virgin Music Release date: 10th June 2022 Buy ‘Honestly’ now