The full album debut from Country star Jaime Wyatt , Neon Cross, is a scorcher.
Release Date: 29th May 2020
Label: New West Records
Formats: CD / DL / vinyl
The name Jaime Wyatt may be unfamiliar to you. Neon Cross is her debut full-length album although she has been around for quite some time and this release follows her 7-track EP, Felony Blues from 2017. Whether her name is familiar or not, it’s worth your while to sit up and take notice, because Neon Cross is a scorcher of an album packed with strong songs that span the whole genre of Country music from soft ballads to hard-edged rockers.
Jaime’s music contains flavourings of the Dolly Parton/Tammy Wynette school of traditional country, but the sweet edge that normally accompanies such influences is cut away by lyrics that would do credit to Warren Zevon and a vocal style that has all of Emmylou’s tunefulness together with the harsh sincerity of Lucinda Williams.
She’s got powerful friends too! Neon Cross is produced by Shooter Jennings, son of the legendary Waylon, and, on the track Just A Woman, she is joined by Jessi Coulter, former wife of Waylon and mother of Shooter.
The album is chock full of great songs, all of which are characterised by Jaime’s wonderful voice, supported by soaring pedal steel and guitar/bass drums that switch effortlessly between sympathetic background on the quieter numbers to full-blown southern rock on the more raucous songs. The album opens with Sweet Mess, an aching ballad with tasteful, lush piano backing; the plaintive lyrics describe a disintegrating relationship. Whilst the song gives a taste of the quality of musicianship that is a feature of the album, it perhaps lulls the listener into a false sense of expectation, because it’s by no means typical of what the album has to offer.
The title track, Neon Cross is a galloping rocker with some nice jangly guitar licks in the background and festooned with crashing guitar chords and the refrain “You don’t love me, why don’t you nail me to a neon cross” really gets into your bloodstream. LIVIN, a slice of traditional country music swings nicely, particularly through the pedal steel licks before Make Something Outta Me takes us back into strutting southern rock and delivers another great refrain, “If God made a world outta nothing, why can’t he make something outta me?” Brilliant!
By Your Side is, perhaps, the album’s Piece de Resistance. It’s a slowish ballad with a strong Gospel feel. The pedal steel work is supreme and the band really comes together to deliver a track that you’ll want to hear over and over. The aforementioned Just A Woman is more trad country but with a killer lyric that urges women to be heard and empowered and to not just accept a role in which they are expected to be (in Jaime’s own words) just meek, selfless and beautiful.
Goodbye Queen is more hard-edged country rock; Mercy a soft ballad with yet more spine-tingling pedal steel and Hurt So Bad, a duet with producer Shooter Jennings is probably the most ‘classic’ cut of straight country on the album.
That just leaves two more of the album’s best songs – Rattlesnake Girl, a highly enjoyable, skipalong country song that’s interspersed with some nice fuzz guitar interludes and the album’s closer, Demon Tied To A Chair In My Brain, a swampy blues number with some manic fiddle flourishes that displays a Lucinda Williams influence on its sleeve.
Jaime Wyatt has arrived at her current place in life via a difficult route. As this album demonstrates, she’s a highly talented songwriter, performer and arranger, yet she has struggled to win the recognition of the industry. She’s suffered with drug and alcohol addiction, has had to endure the loss of her father and her closest friend and has even served time in jail. She deserves so much better and, hopefully, Neon Cross will be the album that gives her the recognition and stability that she is surely due.
Listen to the title track here: