Music Reviews
Neon Cross

Jaime Wyatt Neon Cross

(New West) Buy it from Insound Rating - 7/10

On Jaime Wyatt’s best song, Stone Hotel (from 2017's Felony Blues), she sang about her time spent in prison over a marching beat, acoustic guitars, and a wailing pedal steel part. Capturing the crushing milieu of county jail with warm but wistful imagery, that song proved that the country singer had an absurd amount of songcraft potential, even if it only materialized on one of her songs so far. It makes it somewhat understandable for her sophomore album's title cut to jack the highlights of Stone Hotel (a marching beat, a noticeably similar melody, and those punchy guitars) and give us one of the album’s strongest songs. If you were a cynic, you could say it’s clear that Wyatt’s found her best formula.

Thankfully, Neon Cross does branch out from her previous material. On the bluesy cut Make Something Out of Me, Wyatt trades her wheelhouse for badass crunchy guitars (which deserve to be a bit uglier in tone) and an intense drawl. As the song moves forward with its bright pianos and steel guitar, both of which sound fantastic, the chorus hits a unique and catchy spot. On the steady and well-written Goodbye Queen, she lets the good-time guitar riff get offset by a vaguely sad set of lyrics. The juxtaposition fits her writing well, even if Shooter Jennings’ solid production feels a little less suited to her writing than the tender textures of Felony Blues.

Jennings appears on the album’s penultimate track, the fine Hurts So Bad, where his harmonies pop out of an average song. It’s one of the few moments on Wyatt’s album where her usually honest writing feels more cliche than distinct. Jennings’ harmonies are fine, but it feels like the tune easily could've been cut. Still, this album’s got plenty of superb moments. From the jubilant Rattlesnake Girl to the truly sad slow burn of Sweet Mess, Wyatt proves she’s got plenty of stories to tell and textures to explore. Along with that, the album shows growth in the thematic material here. While a song like Make Something Out of Me calls back to the stories of her debut, Neon Cross shares moments of exploration, with Wyatt’s musings on her relationships, sexual identity, and family and friends being the bulk of the album. With all of that, you can’t say that Jaime Wyatt hasn’t grown. I can only see Neon Cross getting better with time. Same with Wyatt, who’s just started to tap into that potential—imagine what she can do with it fully realized.