During a Sunday (Jan. 7) appearance on CBS Sunday Mornings, Jelly Roll revisits the Metro-Davidson Country Detention Facility in Nashville, Tenn. — where he was previously an inmate — and takes viewers inside a cell he once stayed in while incarcerated there.
“This is jail. It sucks. Every one I’ve ever been to,” Jelly comments as he leads CBS correspondent Kelefa Sanneh through the facility.
The singer’s first jail stay took place at a youth detention facility when he was 14 years old, and for the next 10 years, he was in and out of jails, mostly on drug-related charges. At 16 years old, he served an 18-month sentence for aggravated robbery, an incident in which he and others “robbed a couple of guys for some weed” while armed, according to Jelly’s May 2023 Joe Rogan interview. Tennessee has a zero-forgiveness policy for violent offenders, so the singer has been carrying an inexpungable felony for the two-plus decades since.
“There was a time in my life when I truly thought this was it,” he continues, choking back emotion as he wipes away the tears forming in his eyes. “Coming here, after getting nominated for two Grammys, it hits different…Even when I left here, I didn’t have a plan.
“I knew that I loved music, and it was the only thing I had any skill set in, I thought,” he continues.
Jelly has been vocal about how linking his time in jails and prisons to the development of his musical career. In December 2022 — when his career was just gaining steam in the mainstream country format — he played a sold-out, hometown show at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, and put the proceeds towards programs for local incarcerated youth, including a new recording studio at the very same juvenile detention center where he once did time. He’s also parlayed his success into providing opportunities for offenders who’ve served their time, hiring only convicted felons to work at his food truck.
As he sat at the corner of the bunk bed in his one-time jail cell, and put his hand out to touch the metal seat jutting out of the wall, Jelly reflects on the memories the room still carries. “I wrote hundreds of songs right here,” he says.
Jelly left prison for the last time at age 24, and in the decade-and-a-half since, he’s worked his way up in music, both as a rapper and as a country singer. Over the past couple of years, he has become one of country music’s most beloved stars, and released his debut country album, Whitsitt Chapel, in 2023.
In 2023, the album format was much more than just a way for artists to collect and organize their songs. In fact, the best albums of the year often doubled as diaries for the artist’s journey through a new life stage or personal evolution.
So many artists upped their game that it was impossible to include them all in this list. Luke Combs’ Gettin’ Old and Hardy’s The Mockingbird & the Crow only made it to honorable mention status, which says a lot about just how high the bar was for great, transformative albums in 2023. Special shout-outs are also due to self-titled records from Zach Bryan and Brandy Clark, who released excellent personal statement projects this year, and Dustin Lynch, who delivered unflinching honesty in his album, Killed the Cowboy.
But ultimately, the Top 10 albums of 2023 were master classes in self-reflection and growth; the artists who made them have hit their stride or are still on endless quests towards personal and artistic fulfillment.
Read on for Taste of Country’s best albums of 2023, which were picked by a team of staff writers.
Gallery Credit: Carena Liptak
Country Music News – Taste of Country