Jaime Wyatt has been working for a breakthrough for a long time, finding her career waylaid by addiction and even jail. Her last release Felony Blues explored that painful past, with a nod to Merle Haggard and the outlaws who came before her. The question she explores on this new album Neon Cross is: who do you become when you’ve hit rock bottom, recovered and it still wasn’t the end of your pain? How do you get on with LIVIN in this damn world?
The album is produced by Shooter Jennings, who has been doing some outstanding work for a long time, most notably with Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker. Those artists are touchstones in terms of the raw and real Americana sound of this album but Jaime has something truly special which sets her apart – a voice and lyrical insight that only comes with struggle and suffering.
On opening song Sweet Mess she sings a ballad about love and pain, repeating ‘leave me lonely’ over and over again, as the pedal steel guitar gently weeps. The ache in her voice answering any questions doubters may have about her authenticity or country music credentials.
There’s a wry, self-deprecating humour in her writing too. She knows herself, flaws and all. On the blistering title track she sings ruefully ‘Oh poor me’ and admits to ‘wearing some pitiful perfume’. Sadness, pain, misery – she’s felt it and had enough of it. You don’t love me, why don’t you nail me to a neon cross. She’s sacrificed parts of her self, her spirit, her sobriety, her soul for this life and she’s not going to give up now.
On the brilliant LIVIN she admits to having been through ‘hell’ and now she’s looking for a better way. Love is the answer of course, although the religious imagery on this album suggests it’s also salvation that’s she’s after, even if she doesn’t much care for what the ‘holy rollers’ have to offer.
Make Something Outta Me ruminates on the hard slog of her career, her life and seeks an answer from god about her higher purpose. When you’ve been working all your life and you’re still relatively unknown it has to be tough, especially when you’ve got the talent and the songs to match anyone.
Over the whole album the songwriting quality never dips. Goodbye Queen, Hurt So Bad and Rattlesnake Girl are all catchy as hell, and encapsulate that raw and edgy side of her musical persona. Her musical spirit might be naturally rock and roll but on By Your Side and Just a Woman she sings the hell out of a ballad too. Having Jessi Colter back her up on the latter adds to its classic country sound and reminds us of all the women who’ve walked through storms before her.
The best vocal performance on the album is the gut wrenching ‘Mercy’, a plea and a prayer for some compassion, forgiveness, strength to keep on going. She closes the album by acknowledging the darkness within on a cover of Dax Riggs’s Demon Tied to A Chair in My Brain. She sings from the depth of her soul, like a exorcism of the spirit.
Neon Cross is a revelatory collection of songs full of honesty, heart and grit. It seems so unfair then this album has to be released at such a strange and unsettled time. Let’s hope we can hear these songs being played live and loud under a flickering neon sign in the not so distant future.
Until then please support the artist by buying directly: https://www.jaimewyatt.com
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