Jaime Wyatt is the kickass Outlaw lady of Americana who once robbed her drug dealer and did hard time in the California penitentiary before using country music to turn her life around and tell her story. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better collection of seven country songs than the ones from her debut 2017 EP Felony Blues, and she followed it up with the critically-acclaimed Neon Cross in 2020 produced by Shooter Jennings.
Now it’s time for something a little different from Wyatt. For her third album she’s employed Adrian Quesada as producer, best known as being a member of The Black Pumas and Grupo Fantasma. As you can probably suspect, this results in somewhat of a departure for Wyatt from her more country sound in favor of a classic soul vibe for the eleven songs of her new album Feel Good.
Don’t worry though, it’s not a wholesale change. Though the genre may slide a bit one way on the American roots scale, the classic ’70s panache that has been emblematic of Wyatt’s music from the start stays the same. It’s not super twangy, but Wyatt still uses her music to throw it back to a better time in entertainment, and awakens classic coolness and nostalgia.
Greater attention to rhythm and melody, and developing her songs beyond the simple verse/chorus formula results in what is probably the richest and most overall entertaining Jaime Wyatt album yet. She relies a little less on songcraft, and a little more on setting a groove and delivering a vibe on Feel Good. Ultimately this approach suits Wyatt very well, and doesn’t constitute a complete departure from her country stuff as much as a different approach.
For example, the song “Back To The Country” is written like a country song, but Wyatt and Adrian Quesada decide to give it more of a classic soul interpretation. This happens similarly throughout the album, while a bit of a psych influence also comes in via guitar fuzz, illustrated on the extended ending of “Where The Damned Only Go.” This album doesn’t just have rhythm, it has a pulse.
It’s really hard to find fault with the end results of Feel Good. But it’s also not unfair if some country fans find this album a little bittersweet. You want performers to follow their creative muse wherever it takes them. And in the case of Jaime Wyatt and Feel Good, it takes her next door to soul-infused Americana, not down the street to sellout pop. Still, with such a dearth of women in true country—especially kickass ones like Wyatt—you wish they would stick closer to country to help keep the imbalance more at bay.
But Jaime isn’t burning any bridges here. The final two songs of the album are where you hear the country roots of Wyatt come back to the forefront. “Ain’t Enough Whiskey” with Butch Hancock is a superior Outlaw country track. It could be a mainstay in Wyatt’s live shows for years to come with the way the chorus compels you to sing along. The album concludes with “Moonlighter” about feeling lonesome and separated from the world while in Europe. The steel guitar could be turned up in the mix, but it shows off more of Wyatt’s storytelling side.
Wyatt did her time behind bars, and did her time singing sad and lonesome country songs inspired by true-to-life events. There is some more of that here as well. But now with a successful music career and a new lease on life, it’s time to look for the pleasure in music and not just sad bastard commiseration, and to feel good for a while.
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