There’s something intangible about the latest album from country act Jared Bill… Or maybe the word I’m looking for is tongue-in-cheek? Either way, the rock-tinged country of his sophomore album, Mystery Man, is a compelling journey of flavorful storytelling, fun anecdotes, and a surprisingly touching core that never takes itself quite too seriously. With such a wide-arching spectrum of topics, there’s something here for everybody… Even corgi lovers.

Opening track, “The Jared Bill, Pt. 2,” is an acoustic-laden country western song that acts as a sort of biography or origin story of the character of Jared Bill. Deeply narrative lyrics evoke feelings that you’re about to rob a train sometime in the 1800s. The rich story certainly helps to kick off the album, a simple-but-effective style that would sound right at home in your favorite local saloon or dive bar. With nimble piano twinkling, spry guitar noodling, touches of female harmony, and Jared’s iconic baritone, “The Jared Bill, Pt. 2” is a great way to start the album and is certainly one of Mystery Man’s shining moments.

“Turkey Baby” is where Jared’s sense of humor first appears, telling the story of a baby who stood too close to an oven on Thanksgiving and picked up the scent of the cooked bird. Jared’s twangy vocals stay in their serious, deep-voiced realm while swooning slide guitars and a chunky chord progression carry on the country-western flavor here (pun intended). Jared’s not afraid to lean into humor, layering “yeahs” and dinner bells into the chorus. He even goes as far as to confirm that he still smells like turkey now with a quick aside at the end of the song (checks out, to be honest). He continues this humorous approach on track four, “Vindaloo,” and while we can’t get behind the faux accent Jared dons here (listeners beware), the use of sitar is refreshing and unique and the story itself is pretty humorous.

The acoustic-driven indie-rock of “Corgi on the 2nd Floor” gets my vote for album favorite. The verses carry a real ’90s indie-grunge aesthetic and see Jared stepping outside of his typical dark voice to explore a delightful airier tenor. With an overdriven solo and plunking, palm muted chord progressions, “Corgi” sounds like it could fit on any Marcy Playground or Local H album. Jared’s bottomless grumble, of course, re-appears in the choruses for a mile-a-minute delivery, helping to tie “Corgi” seamlessly into the rest of the album’s flair.

There’s lots to enjoy here – the quick draw deliveries on “The Corduroy Showdown” and “Tabs and Slots” are some of the deepest vocal performance I think I’ve ever heard, falling somewhere on the spectrum between Cake and C. W. McCall. “Avoid Ferries” features an endearing performance by a mystery female vocalist, offering a crisp and bright juxtaposition against Jared’s ultra-masculine delivery. Finally, album closer “Thompson Speedway” is a perfect way to end the album – while Jared certainly lets his goofy side show throughout Mystery Man, “Thompson Speedway” is a genuinely touching story documenting the importance of racing, cars, and the sight of a checkered flag between a father, son, and generations to come.

Mystery Man is out now on South County Records. You can find the album on Spotify, Apple Music, and via the YouTube embed below.