An inspired album of songs that aren’t all what they seem at first listen.
Jamie McDell has lived a peripatetic life. Born in New Zealand, at age 7, her lawyer father moved Jamie, her mother and her younger sister onto a yacht and went sailing the high seas ending up in the Mediterranean. Since then, she’s moved back to New Zealand, then onto Nashville and Toronto whilst recording and releasing four albums including her latest, the eponymous ‘Jamie McDell’.
Recorded at Troubadour House Studios in Nashville and produced by fellow antipodean, Nash Chambers (brother of Kasey) the album consists of thirteen seemingly very personal songs which were either written by McDell or co-written with Chambers and a number of other writers. On the album she’s backed by a cast of many including Shawn Fichter on drums, Denis Crouch on upright bass, Ross Holmes on fiddle, Dan Dugmore on lap and pedal steel and Mark Punch on electric guitar. She’s also helped out on backing vocals by Emmie Chambers, Erin Rae and The McCary Sisters.
McDell has a really fascinating voice. At times she has a husky edge and at other times it has a breathy, dreamy quality that draws the listener in. She also has the ability to add a country-catch a la Dolly Parton to it on the more country songs such as ‘Not Ready Yet’ which has an old-country twang and ‘Beggar Claim’. There also the more folky songs such as the album’s standout song, the beautiful ‘Mother’s Daughter’.
McDell’s melodies are superb and they’re combined with excellent lyrics most of which seem very personal to her. Apart from writing about her Mother about whom she writes ‘I saw you cry when I was seventeen’, she also writes about her Father in ‘Daddy Come Pick Me Up’ with a cry from the heart ‘Won’t you come and hold my hand, now this big girl isn’t what I planned, and mostly I just need my oldest friend, won’t you come pick me up. She also sings about the aging process in ‘Botox’, travelling and cars in ‘Not Ready Yet’ and ‘Limousine Running’ respectively. There’s also a beautiful song about a dead friend called ‘Where Are You Now (TD’s Song)’ which really tugs at the heartstrings. One curious thing about the album is that there doesn’t seem to be an out and out love song on it. ‘Dream Team’ could be construed as one until you hear lyrics such as ‘He finds a little trouble, shoots the teller in the arm’ and ‘The house burns down, there are people inside’!
Jamie McDell is a superb storyteller whose songs have a sly edge to them that definitely warrant a second (and third) listen. All her songs sound very personal – even the ones that probably aren’t. Backed by some of Nashville’s finest musicians, in particular Dan Dugmore’s magnificent, mournful pedal steel and Ross Holmes expressive fiddle playing, Nash Chamber’s attention to detail as producer pulls it all together making ‘Jamie McDell’ the album and Jamie McDell the artist worth looking out for.