What a revelation this second album from Texas-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter Jaimee Harris is! It’s country-leaning folk Americana, every song propelled by acoustic guitar and other, mostly spare instrumentation, with Harris’ remarkable voice leading us through ten original songs (four of them co-writes) that pack a tremendous emotional punch. Whether they’re describing personal memories or painting portraits of friends and lovers or conjuring myriad emotional states—wistful, sad, confused, contented, uncertain, hopeful—these songs all have the deep ring of truth that springs from Harris’ own life experiences growing up in a small, Waco-area town she was desperate to escape: “a ‘boomerang town,’” she once explained, “because it feels like a lot of folks that try to leave end up back there.”
The poetic, nearly seven-minute title track has some of the vibe of Bruce Springsteen’s “The River,” telling a story about two young people trapped and paralyzed by fate and circumstance. Harris herself managed to leave at 19, when she split for Austin, but her past struggles—including addiction, family issues, and personal tragedies—have left their mark on her, and she channels all that and more into her songs, whether autobiographical or told from the perspective of others.
Harris’ voice, which I would favorably compare to two of her admitted influences—Emmylou Harris and Patty Griffin—has tremendous range, moving easily from sturdy storyteller to strikingly open and vulnerable self-revelator. In Harris’ current life, her partner is the noted folk singer Mary Gauthier (they co-wrote two of the most powerful songs here, both about deep loss—“How Could You Be Gone” and “Fall (Devlin’s Song)”). But the musical brilliance of the album stems from Harris’ partnership with producer and multi-instrumentalist Mark Hallman, whose tasteful arrangements support the songs so well: cello and violin here, a touch of accordion there, a taste of harmonica, steel guitar, a little organ; nothing in excess. And always acoustic guitar, strummed and/or fingerpicked. Harris says, “I play a 2013 Gibson J-45. I got it in 2014, the same year I got sober. So I feel like we’re growing together. Her name is Gillie.” As for Hallman, he played a 1969 Gurian and a 1951 Gibson J-45.
This is definitely one of the best singer-songwriter albums I’ve heard in a while and I highly recommend you check it out!