On Neon Cross, Jamie Wyatt feels the glow
Artist: Jamie Wyatt
Album: Neon Cross
Label: New West Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Many artists aspire to inspire, but oftentimes that inspiration is only in the ear of the beholder.
After all, to make that connection, the message has to be meaningful to all. Jamie Wyatt is obviously aware of that, given her reservoir of drive, defiance and determination. As her new album, Neon Cross, demonstrates so dramatically, she clearly has both the will and the resources to make an emphatic impact.
Wyatt also has the advantage of having lived the stories she shares. Remarkably, she signed her first record label deal while only a teenager, only to endure the malaise and malfeasance that often befalls those who enter into a contract without recognizing the pitfalls that often await along the way. Sadly, for her, the worst was yet to come. She became an addict, went to prison, and later had to deal with the death of her dad and her unresolved sexuality. It was tough enough to sustain a career, but with her life in flux, it was far more challenging than anyone might imagine. Her debut release, an EP tellingly titled Felony Blues, demonstrated that she was capable of expressing herself and facing her demons in an unapologetic way. With Neon Cross, she asserts herself once again, taking a knowing but nuanced stance that brings her fully to the fore.
VIDEO: Jamie Wyatt “Neon Cross”
Of course it helps to have a producer like Shooter Jennings, at the boards, a man who’s no stranger to an insurgent attitude himself. Given his sympathetic stance, Wyatt has both the reason and resolve to tackle a variety of song settings and scenarios, from the anthemic piano-driven opener “Sweet Mess” to the swagger and strut of the bold and brassy “Goodbye Queen.” There are any number of other outstanding offerings here as well, among them, the triumphant narrative “Just a Woman” — which finds her pairing with the original outlaw country queen Jessi Colter — the riveting title track, and the sympathetic strains of “Mercy,” “Make Something Outta Me” and “By Your Side.” Through it all, Wyatt’s conviction is clear, and her earnest intents elevate the music to a high peak of drive and devotion.
The closest comparison one might conjure up is Lucinda Williams, given Wyatt’s uncompromising attitude and clear, confident delivery. In the end, this Neon Cross is an easy one to bear.