Rancho Fiesta Sessions

Rancho Fiesta Sessions

Since his 2014 debut, Write You a Song, Californian Jon Pardi has been one of the most celebrated torchbearers of neo-traditional country music. In mid-2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic upending tour schedules and album promotion, Pardi was sidelined from hitting the road with the critically acclaimed Heartache Medication (2019). So, as a surprise, he decided to drop Rancho Fiesta Sessions, a collection of covers recorded live with his band over a single night’s jam sessions. Named after the recording location—Pardi’s nickname for his actual house—and focusing specifically on tracks that are live favorites, Rancho Fiesta Sessions is appropriately rowdy and loose. He pulls mainly from famous names in country music, kicking off with fellow Californian Merle Haggard’s drinking standard “The Bottle Let Me Down” and tackling Dwight Yoakam’s unique style on “Honky Tonk Man.” There’s plenty of fiddle and pedal steel—notably the solos on George Strait’s “Right Or Wrong,” the first of two Strait tracks—and Joe Diffie and Keith Whitley get the Pardi treatment, too. But he also acknowledges his rock ‘n’ roll influences with Tom Petty’s “The Waiting,” and proves there’s more up his sleeve than roadhouse fare with an impassioned version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” complete with simmering saxophone. The riotous energy in these takes on country standards provides plenty to enjoy without digging deeper, but it’s fun to explore the insight it provides into Pardi’s musical genesis. “The Bottle Let Me Down” isn’t a far cry from his own modern bar lament “Heartache Medication.” It’s easy to hear the Petty influence on 2016’s soaring “Night Shift.” And the punchy, clever country he continued to hone on 2022’s Mr. Saturday Night shows its roots in the tributes on Rancho Fiesta Sessions.

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