Seattle based songwriter serves up an appetising smorgasbord of raw roots styles for his second album.
Jeremy James Meyer is not a name that is widely known in the UK but on the evidence of his second album ‘Alive & OK’ it probably should be. Recorded live, but not in front of an audience, at the OK Theater in the small Oregon city of Enterprise, the album has a freshness and a rawness that a recording studio can sometimes cut away. The album also reveals Meyer to be a songwriter of considerable talent, at home performing a range of roots styles including country, folk, blues and rock.
The album opens with the rattling, rocking, honky-tonk country of ‘Brick Wall Blues’. Straight away your attention is demanded and it’s clear from the offset that this is not going to be a cosy ride. The boogie-blues of ‘Cat on a Chain’ follows and after the initial hit of the opening track you can begin disect some of the elements that are contributing to this sublime racket. Meyers voice sounds like his larynx has been tuned with a scouring pad, the guitars are crisp and clear, the drumming economical and the tunes as catchy as hell. Then just when you’ve strapped yourself in for a white knuckle ride Meyer lays ‘Rhinestoned Cowboy’ on you. The song begins with gentle acoustic guitar and mandolin, later joined by a sprinkling of piano and organ. Dealing with Meyer’s own lifestyle as a carpenter and session musician who just wants to be out there playing his own music, the song is as good an account of balancing dreams with realities that you are likely to hear “Let the wind toss your hair, quit frettin’ there child, had your fun playin’ cowboy, now come home for a while”. The song is later joined by a single trumpet that gives it the feeling of a last lament to the dream.
The rest of the album continues in the same impressive vein, switching styles but maintaining the standard. ‘Bon Voyage’ has a swing-jazz feel, ‘That’s OK’ utilises afro-beat and calypso and ‘Thought That You Could Tell’ a country waltz. Meyer sounds equally at home stomping through rocking tunes like ‘Woodshop Rock’ which recalls Canned Heat in their prime. Incorporating so many styles on one record could run this risk of it sounding fragmented but ‘Alive & OK’ is anything but. Quite the opposite in fact, it holds together as an impressive collection of songs, each presented in a way that is completely compatible both with the individual song and the project as a whole. An impressive achievement.