Many records are touted as inspiring, but few albums actually live up to that billing by actually striking sentiments worthy of universal appeal. In Jaime Wyatt's case, there's never any doubt, given a knowing attitude expressed through drive, defiance and determination. "Neon Cross" clearly makes the case that she is indeed a force to be reckoned with, lyrically and melodically as well.
Then again, Wyatt's one of those rare artists that's actually lived the songs that she shares. Having signed her first record deal as a teenager, she suffered the troubles and travails that the industry often subjects an unknowing novice to on their first encounter. Beset by addiction, followed by a prison sentence, the death of her dad and issues of sexuality, she had no shortage of challenges when it came to furthering her still dormant career, and in fact, simply surviving with her sanity intact. Her initial effort, the "Felony Blues" EP, was a bold, but abbreviated first step in claiming her credence. "Neon Cross" finds those efforts fully liberated - a knowing, nuanced, but fully formidable set of songs that proclaims both her intelligence and her intents.
Produced by renowned artist and producer Shooter Jennings, the album allows Wyatt to span a broad divide with remarkable ease, from the dramatic, piano-driven, anthemic opener "Sweet Mess" to the swagger and strut of the bold and brassy "Goodbye Queen." Several showstoppers lurk in-between - the riveting resolve of the telling "Just a Woman" (a sensational duet with Shooter's mom Jessi Colter), the walloping "Neon Cross," the plaintive and pleading ballad "Mercy" and the unwavering strains of "Make Something Outta Me" and "By Your Side." Through it all, Wyatt's honesty and humanity are never in doubt, each song offering the impression that she's singing from an inner core of conviction. These offerings provide the impression that she's sharing a true-life tale borne from hard luck and happenstance, with varying degrees of experience and expertise imbued in each.
Compare her to Lucinda Williams if you will. She clearly has the same outlaw attitude. It seems an all too frequently used cliche to say simply that Wyatt has arrived.
Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tennessee. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book - "Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound" is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.