With a second album of devastatingly honest songwriting, Jaimee Harris is set for greater things.
Jaimee Harris came to attention with her debut album ‘Red Rescue’ in 2018 which was met with significant critical acclaim and described by some as the debut album of the year. It was a stunning collection of songs of searing honesty and self-examination. Harris, after all, is a recovering alcoholic with mental health issues perhaps brought about by her Evangelical upbringing and desire (necessity even) to break away from it “I fought the bottle with the sword, but won the battle with the Lord, A power that believes in second chances”, from ‘On the Surface’ on the new album.
Harris is a folk singer who hails from Waco in Texas, spent 10 years or more in Austin and now lives in Nashville. She has just turned thirty and for many years suffered mental health problems which led to drugs and drink, which in turn led to an arrest and jailtime in 2014. Vowing to get ‘clean’ when released it took several years of rehab and intensive therapy to get to a better place. She counts as her main mentors Jimmy Lafave (she appeared on several of his later albums) and Mary Gauthier with whom she performs and writes songs and who is her life partner.
Her second album is the astonishing ‘Boomerang Town’, which she began writing in 2016 about the time of a changing political and cultural landscape in America, and which led during lockdown to her reminiscing about the past, her hometown and origins of family. It further demonstrates the spellbinding writing skills she demonstrated in ‘Red Rescue’. It is a folk album with Americana leanings, generally slower than her debut and addresses many issues including love, emotional distance, death, grief, family, isolation, and inequality.
The title track is a stunning song about a young couple desperate to leave their hometown but unable to do so – it may be part autobiographical but the sentiment could apply to anyone “As for me, the only dream I’ve ever had Is gettin’ out of this boomerang town, You think you’re soarin’, you think you’re flyin’, Too young to know there’s no use tryin’, You spin in circles, round and round In this boomerang town”
‘How Could You be Gone’ (a co-write with Mary Gauthier) is a grief-stricken reflection on the death of a friend and also of mentor Lafave who died in 2017. The oft-repeated title line at the end reinforces her grief.
‘Sam’s’ is very dark, about the onset of addiction and mental illness and could also be autobiographical– “Back when the place was still a biker bar, I’d come up late and put ‘em down cause not a soul I ever knew was hanging ‘round, No one cared if I drove off into the night to greet the flashing lights, They tied me up, put me back inside”. ‘The Fair and Dark-haired Lad’ is about the allure of addiction, ‘Fall (Devin’s Song)’ (another co-write with Gauthier) is about the death of a friend.
Most of the album is slow and downbeat, but there are optimistic signs in the final two tracks ‘Love is Gonna Come Again’ with its message of hope’ and the upbeat ‘Missing Someone’, written for Mary Gauthier, and reflecting their longish distance relationship. “Work’s piled up, dishes ain’t done, I’ve been stuck on the telephone, Ain’t been sleeping in my bed, I’d rather be in yours instead, Guess I’ve come a little undone, I’m just missing, I’m just missing someone”
The sensitive production by Mark Hallman and the subtle use of violins, cellos and accordion (on top of tasty guitar, keyboards, drum and bass) makes for a great cushion for Harris’ throaty and powerful voice. She is very special and destined to be a star. Look out for this album on 2023’s Best Of lists.