PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Photo: Magdalena Wosinska / Courtesy of New West Records

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

Neon Cross
Jaime Wyatt

New West Records

29 May 2020

Jaime Wyatt is typically filed under "outlaw country", which evokes the cliched images of yowlers and revelers stomping their boots in some dive. Yet her new album, Neon Cross, doesn't start out sounding like outlaw country at all. "Sweet Mess" begins with just sparse piano and Wyatt's voice, sounding like the matriarchs of Fleetwood Mac's peak years kicked the boys out of the room to craft a melancholy ballad that includes the narrator asking a past lover to "leave me lonely". Wyatt pulls this move by design though. She wanted to weed out the listeners not ready for a contemplative look into heartbreak and redemption.

"Consider this album an appointment to feel and get in touch with your own emotions," she told PopMatters earlier this year. After "Sweet Mess", Wyatt gets back to the rough ramble of outlaw country, but the message is clear: This album is deeper than a label can offer. Since her last release, 2017's Felony Blues Wyatt has lost her father, struggled with addiction, come out as a gay woman, and went through a divorce. Neon Cross is Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all these emotions she's been going through, but more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.

To begin, The country Jaime Wyatt produces is a far cry from the country you will hear on any radio outside the far left of the dial. And this "real" country she makes is sometimes just a little more than obsessed with authenticity. Wyatt needs not to worry about being called inauthentic, as personally and musically, she has the credentials to push away any such cursory concerns. She's been through the ringer. After losing a record deal in her teens, Wyatt leaned into the hard-living lifestyle for years, climaxing in a felony after she robbed her dealer. She spent eight months in prison and documented all of it on her debut EP Felony Blues.

Musically, Neon Cross, her debut LP, is mostly a pleasantly rattling bucket of twang. Stated simply, it's a far cry from radio country. After "Sweet Mess", we get the title track, "Neon Cross", with its propulsive shuffling beat backed by steel guitar and it's cry of "the evening speaks my language". It checks all the boxes for raw dive bar country. "Goodbye Queen" tells the story of a fly-by-night relationship while sounding as close to '90s country-pop as Wyatt will allow herself. Later, "Rattlesnake Girl" incorporates fuzz bass reminiscent of Grady Martin's gloriously fuzzed-out solo on the 1961 "Don't Worry" single by Marty Robbins. Basically, Wyatt touches base with many different iterations of country, both recent and antique, and she does so with finesse and reverence.

It can be a tough time out there, and Wyatt is working it all out throughout Neon Cross. The title of the final track is "Demon Tied to a Chair in My Brain", and you don't need much more than that title to understand what Wyatt is trying to express here. We all have demons. Just be sure to keep them tied down as long as you can, maybe forever, but don't count on it, so keep your head up.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.


Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.


'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.


ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.


The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.


Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.


Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.