Jelly roll is The breakout country star of the year, a larger-than-life character with such heat that CMA Awards producers chose him as the show’s opening act. The face-tattooed singer and rapper from Antioch, Tennessee, exuberantly sang “Need a Favour” with the help of an unannounced guest: Wynonna Judd.
“Who the fuck am I to expect a savior/When I only talk to God when I need a favor?” born Jason DeFord howled in the song, a track from his new album Whitsitt Chapel, while a gospel choir led the audience at Bridgestone Arena into church with the choir’s gospel-tinged “Amen.” Wynonna proved to be a fitting complement to “Jelly Roll,” launching into the powerful ballad about forgiveness and remorse.
More from Rolling Stone
A longtime mixtape hitter and rapper, Jelly Roll has transitioned almost seamlessly into a country and rock singer. His vulnerable, sometimes even shaky singing style has endeared him to fans and fellow artists and made him a favorite collaborator in Nashville. At the moment he has collaborations with Lainey Wilson (on his own song “Save Me”), Cody Johnson (“Whiskey Bent”), Jessie Murph (“Savages“), Riley Green (“Copenhagen in a Cadillac”) and Dustin Lynch (“Chevrolet“). In recent weeks he has shared the stage with Wilson, Murph and Eric Church.
Jelly Roll did double duty on CMA night. In addition to opening the show with Wynonna, he sang the Judds’ “Love Can Build a Bridge” with K. Michelle in the finale. Their studio version of the song appears on a new tribute album to mother-daughter duo Wynonna and Naomi Judd.
Jelly Roll is currently in the midst of what it believes is the largest toy drive in Nashville history. From now through December 15, he’s asking fans to donate new, unwrapped toys at eight Nashville-area Walmart stores. At the start of the campaign, he held a surprise pop-up concert in a store parking lot.
The best of Rolling Stone