[22 October 2003]
On her latest release, Nothing Comes Easy, singer/songwriter Brigitte DeMeyer, delivers the kind of elegant, uncomplicated Southern backwater blues that makes the heart thump and mind whirl. With a cigarette-stained, rough-and-tumble drawl, DeMeyer brings to life her delicate poetry with equal parts power and reserve making her instantly comparable to her idols, Bonnie Raitt and EmmyLou Harris.
While honing her skills singing in gospel choirs as a young girl, DeMeyer was able to compare and contrast a variety of musical styles, from country and blues to bluegrass and soul. Upon moving to San Diego (from her home in the Midwest), the singer found herself further discovering what the American musical landscape had to offer, soaking up as much as she could hold, before yet another move to the Bay Area saw her joining a variety of bands to put into practice all she had (so far) learned.
DeMeyer’s dedication to her music involved not only a desire to write songs and to sing, but to cultivate her talents with a vocal coach while studying the finer points of performance from the likes of bluegrass masters Peter Rowan, Tim O’Brien, and the Del McCoury Band. It’s difficult at times, in fact, to keep in mind this is only DeMeyer’s second turn in the recording studio, as she brings to her work the mark of a veteran—demonstrating a oneness with her guitar, her vocal limitations, her own sense of self and that which she wishes to share through her songs. It all comes together seemingly effortlessly to build a rare package that, in many moments, matches the uncommon beauty of Raitt and Harris.
DeMeyer’s willingness to develop fully as an all-around performer is evident every time she opens her mouth. She has a way of taking the simplest of lyrics and the smoothest of rhythms and, with just a short breath or tempo adjustment, turning them into something so profound, so timeless.
The title track, “Nothing Comes Easy”, is just one example of DeMeyer’s stranglehold on what it is that sends a song shooting straight for the heart, giving it instant appeal and staying power. Kicking off with a blues-flavored beat unlike anything heard on the album up to this point (track seven), DeMeyer weaves her voice up and down and around lengthy lyrics like, “My disconnection notice came straight from you / Does my satisfaction have to mean we’re through”, refusing to color within the lines of rhythm and rhyme and instead taking her voice wherever she wants it to go. The song sees her try out just about every vocal style on the chart, at times getting as husky as Melissa Etheridge, while at others, reaching the highest heights in the vein of Trisha Yearwood, or even a pop songbird of the Christina Aguilera variety.
Testament to DeMeyer’s diversity, there’s little chance the Aguilera comparison could be made on strictly Southern numbers such as “By Yer Side”, a super hot duet with Ivan Neville of the Neville Brothers that all but drips with down home sexiness, or “Ain’t the One”, which seems DeMeyer’s personal tribute to Raitt, featuring gorgeous lyrical twists (“Shine or rain, tried or true / There was a time I’d rise and set for you”) and an in-control, whip-crack vocal.
The standout track on the album, however, incorporates pop with the rock, blues, and country—“Roll the Wheels” is laced with crossover appeal that evokes images of Amanda Marshall’s pop/blues masterpiece Everybody’s Got a Story from last year, and is built on a sultry beat and raunchy vocal. The song further demonstrates DeMeyer’s abilities as a songwriter by fusing simple metaphor (“Roll the wheels and get on with the ride”) with more complex notions of personal security and self-imposed autonomy (“At the end of the day / The wealth is in the knowing / That if you walk away / What you’ve got, you own”).
It’s a great tune, perfectly capturing the essence of this album and its artist, a woman fuelled by her own sense of individual freedom and willingness to mix it up, trying and testing each and every musical party trick she wishes to pull from her talented sleeve.