By Cher Guevara, Staff Writer
After releasing an EP and a few songs for soundtracks, Jaime Wyatt unveiled her debut solo album, “Neon Cross,” this summer. Backed with a solid band and featuring appearances by a couple of certified outlaw legends, Jaime is out to make her mark in modern country music.
Opening with “Sweet Mess”, the album gets off to a somber start with a barroom ballad, backed with Jaime’s piano and sparse instrumentation from the rest of her band. She laments how fucked up her past relationships were, while still trying to find something beautiful in it. It’s classic country, augmented by some downright killer steel guitar from John Schreffler, Jr. This opener should be in the jukebox of every rundown honky tonk in America, played around closing time.
The tempo picks up with “Neon Cross”, which has a thumping rhythm that reminds me a lot of the sound of the old Tennessee Three, particularly the runaway-train drumming of Jamie Douglass. Wyatt sings out with some serious piss and vinegar, taking aim at those who’ve wronged and demeaned her, spitting in the chorus “You don’t love me, why don’t you nail me to a neon cross?”
Jaime and the band let the mean riffs play out a bit in “Make Something Out of Me”, a stomping country rocker that finds Jaime giving the finger to everyone who said she had a free ride in her career, singing snottily about her barroom gigs and the few bucks she scraped together for gas to get to the next show. She celebrates her rough and tumble career in the spirit of the old punk records and any struggling musician will fall in love with this cut.
“Just a Woman”, a slow sad ballad relying on the acoustic guitars of Neal Casal and plenty of pedal steel finds Jaime sardonically lamenting about the bullshit misogyny she has dealt with in her life. It’s not a “poor me”, but more of a “fuck you” to the men who expected her to be the perfect princess they always dreamed of. Helping Jaime along in the chorus is the legendary Jessi Colter, the outlaw country giant who smashed at the doors of sexism in country music back in the ‘70s. Colter’s appearance brings the song full circle and reminds listeners that there’s still plenty of bullshit to fight against in country music.
“Rattlesnake Girl” turns the heat back up, with a mix of stomping riffs and sparser acoustic bits. This is one that will get the dance floor moving. Jaime celebrates her country upbringing and how tough she’s become: underneath all her pretty dresses and loud jewelry, she’s a rattlesnake, dangerous and ready to strike if necessary. If you ever doubt that a lady can be an outlaw, just spin this track a time or two, you’ll change your tone right quick.
Jaime lays out a bluesy road ballad with “Hurt So Bad”, a cut about the hardships of life on tour and how personal the sting can be. It features another cameo, this time from Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter. Shooter sings back-up on the chorus and adds an element of truth with his vocals – another wounded soul who has been there, done that on the road. With Shooter by her side, Jaime summons the spirits of the original outlaws and delivers one of the strongest ballads on this LP.
The album comes to a close with a surprising cover, “Demon Tied to a Chair in My Brain”, originally performed by Dax Riggs, a Hoosier sludge metal icon who rose to fame with the raw sounds of his band Acid Bath. And it’s a hell of a closer. With the haunting fiddle of Aubrey Richmond, Jaime turns Dax’s raw blues opus into a searing honky-tonk lament, full of groaning agony. She did full justice to Dax’s work and I’d bet my last beer in the fridge that he would dig her stretched moaning vocals in the chorus.
This album shows a lot of potential. Jaime has the outlaw spirit through and through and she has the experience and chops to back it up in spades. The one major critique I have is that with a lot of the songs, the sound is too polished, too Nashville. I hope on her next album she’ll go for a rawer sound; I think that would make her words and riffs shine through all the better.
“Neon Cross” (New West Records) is available now at store.newwestrecords.com and on all major streaming services. Jaime Wyatt is featured in Episode 1 of Country Queer Spotlight, the podcast that introduces you to rising LGBTQ stars in country, Americana, and folk.