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Jaime Wyatt - Felony Blues

  by Kimberly Bright

published: 12 / 8 / 2017

Jaime Wyatt - Felony Blues
Label: Forty Below Records
Format: CD


West Coast singer-songwriter and former prisoner Jaime Wyatt provides a woman’s take on the outlaw country genre on her mini-album 'Felony Blues'

It’s not unusual for country artists to have unfortunate brushes with law enforcement. It has become part of the carefully crafted image of the lone outsider and an evergreen song topic. Early outlaw country artists like Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, as well as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Jr., and David Allan Coe, among others, were known for acting like off-the-rails rock stars, some battling serious addictions, and rebelling against the long-standing Nashville establishment. But throughout the last forty-five or so years, aside from Tanya Tucker and Jessi Colter, outlaw country has been short on female voices. Jaime Wyatt has emerged from the Los Angeles country scene and embraced this genre, going so far as to end her new mini-album 'Felony Blues# with an astonishing cover of Merle Haggard’s 'Misery and Gin'. Unlike many other singer-songwriters who simply sing about police, politics and prison, she really did spend eight months in jail. Not for taking the fall for a guilty boyfriend, but for stealing from her drug dealer. Wyatt was born in Santa Monica but mostly grew up on a farm in Washington outside Seattle with her singer-songwriter parents, both of whom come from musical families (Her father is Michael O’Neill). She also counts her “southern hillbilly grandparents” as strong influences on her music. While she was struggling to start a music career of her own in LA in her late teens, enduring two failed record deals, she became addicted to hard drugs. As she tells the story, her affluent drug dealer seemed the perfect person from whom to steal when she desperately needed money, but being a privileged sort, he had access to excellent lawyers and had Jaime prosecuted. Wyatt has been through a lot of trauma in her young life, but luckily she is a great storyteller. Only one song on 'Felony Blues' has to do with her own experiences with the court system and jail. The rest are solid contemporary country pop rock, with a 1960's and 70's southern California folk-Bakersfield country feel to some of them ('Giving Back the Best of Me' and 'Wishing Well'). 'Your Loving Saves Me' sounds like something from Bonnie Raitt’s back catalogue, and I doubt that there is another love song anywhere that references both Jesus and gravy. On 'Wasco' a fellow inmate is planning on going to Wasco State Prison in California on “graduation day” to pick up her cowboy boyfriend when he is released. Twisting the usual narrative of an outlaw being saved by the love of a good woman, she defiantly admits that this man can’t be saved at all, and she doesn’t really care. Wyatt says of the love-struck pen-pals, “The cellmate had never met the guy, but they were planning their wedding via love letters back and forth between correctional facilities.” Wyatt expresses disgust and frustration with the judicial system in 'Stone Hotel', describing her experience with a sarcastic judge, lawyers, an unhelpful district attorney (“District attorney threw the book and took the learning out”…”That DA called for restitution for a hustler out on bond”), official statements, and plea deals with surprising good humour. She just wants the whole ordeal to be over with, but maintains the smug assurance that even as she goes to jail “I got someone waiting for me.” Her upbeat, rebellious, cocky attitude is still intact, but she’s bored sitting in jail and, rather than yearn for the open road and the adventurers of a wanderer like one of the gritty old original outlaws, simply wants to go home to her boyfriend.

Track Listing:-
1 Wishing Well
2 Your Loving Saves Me
3 From Outer Space
4 Wasco
5 Giving Back the Best of Me
6 Stone Hotel
7 Misery and Gin

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