28 Nov 2022

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Jamie McDell - Album Review: Jamie McDell

04 Mar 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

What a year it has been for Kiwis in Nashville. Just last month we had Cy Winstanley from Tattletale Saints pass through (on holiday), South for Winter play a few cameo gigs supporting the release of their great little record Luxumbra, and then Jackie Bristow releases her 5th album, recorded in Nashville, while she stayed locked down here in New Zealand.

And now Jamie McDell has returned from her big OE in Canada and the US. OK, she’s been back since August last year, but leaving behind an album in the can, also recorded in Nashville, and now out, about a week ago as well.

I spoke to Jamie last week, the day the album came out, about her experiences and her plans, and you can see that in our short interview (It’s a Wrap with Roger), but all the while I was immersing in the album, and this is what I found:

A coyote howl merges with steel and a banjo plunks us into zone comfort as Jamie McDell’s sweet voice emerges to tell us about the Dream Team, not as good as it seems, but subject matter aside, an angry burst of guitar sets us off on a journey which is both compelling and revealing: this extraordinary girl has arrived and she’s making a statement.

For the second time in a week, I am struck by the fullness and richness of the Nashville sound, or more specifically, the Nash Chambers sound and although Jamie feels that the album is just as much Nash’s as hers, that’s only true if you ignore her voice and her songs (which of course you can’t). The song may not be about this, but, indeed, they are a dream team.

Like many artists trapped in the pandemic of our times, albums come out late, and songs laid down over two long years wait yet another to be heard. This only adds to the stress of recording songs which collectively produce a statement, which the self-title of the album foreshadows, a bold statement which says, I’m Jamie McDell and this is my story, this is my past, and as for the future, I‘m ready for most things.

And so, as I talk to Jamie (over zoom) there’s a sense of release and relief in getting to the day when the album is out, the songs can be heard, and the songs themselves can be interpreted by the listener, and not weigh on Jamie’s shoulders like a burden of doubt and debt.

I say that because this is not only a great album musically, but also an intensely personal reflection from Jamie on life so far, such that in many ways relieving the burden of uncertainty and doubt is now a cathartic experience. How easy it is for us just to listen and enjoy!!

Catharsis also in the tone and content of many of the songs. In terms of family, the good, the bad, the tragic; the strength to get through it, submission to the passage of time, unconditional love. And in terms of embarking on a new life-phase with partner Jake, and the urge and need to shed baggage from the inner suitcases of the mind. No pressure! But ultimately, the epiphany that, at the end of the day, why be ashamed, why hold back from the losses and pains which make you into Something More?

Poignancy offset by triumph over adversity and crowned by confidence and self-assurance are the building blocks for this statement of Jamie McDell that she is ready for the next chapter of her life. Well, almost. Parenthood? Not Ready Yet. Great song (and note carefully that there is a “yet”).

But hang on a moment, this is not a sad album at all, despite the themes. On the contrary, it’s gushing with all the ingredients of classic Americana – a little pop, a little rock, a little gospel, a little folk, and lots of plunkety-plunk, and pedal and bottle and pick and bow. Many moments where a breakout into a jammy live version is straining at the leash. A song about the temptation to go cosmetic, but resisted, there’s already enough beauty, no need for Botox, keep the Limousine Running. And, as already alluded, so well arranged and produced with cameos from all over and a sensational Nashville Cats band. Cameos: Tom Busby (Busby Marou) on Poor Boy; Robert Ellis, superbly contrasting on the tongue-in-cheek Worst Crime; Erin Rae on Where Are You Now. And there is an Anthem also, a new “Sailing”, this time Sailor. Imagine the McCrary Sisters by a lighthouse scanning the sea for a lonely and lost sailor. Well, it happens. On this record! Jamie McDell from Mission Bay! Look out Dave Dobbyn, there’s a new anthem in town!

And dominating the record is the Jamie McDell voice, and the Americans are already saying Stevie Nicks. Well, that would get anyone’s attention, so I applaud the effort to break through the mass of promotional propaganda to get some airplay, but I have to object. It can only be Stevie on a good day, like 1976, but this, ladies and gentlemen, is Jamie McDell in 2022!!

Jamie McDell is proud of her new album, and so she should be. I’m proud too, proud to have Jamie from Mission Bay (now Bay of Plenty) in our growing cohort of fantastic Kiwi Americana artists making waves in America. We all can and should be proud.

Jamie McDell has made an incredible, almost prefect album called Jamie McDell. I give it the high 5.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Jamie McDell

Jamie McDell was brought up in a musical family and started writing songs from a young age. Winner of Best Pop Album at the 2013 New Zealand Music Awards.

"If you were going to put money on Kiwi music's "next big thing", Jamie McDell is your best bet... her homemade videos have turned her into a YouTube sensation, leaving industry heavyweights predicting global success for the beach-loving girl from Mangawhai." - View, The Sunday Star Times.

"Jamie McDell's cover [of One Direction's 'One Thing'] reminds us of Jewel. And that's a good thing!" - Perez Hilton

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Jamie McDell


Jamie McDell
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Extraordinary Girl
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Ask Me Anything
Year: 2015
Type: Album
All That I Wanted
Year: 2012
Type: EP
Six Strings And A Sailboat
Year: 2012
Type: Album

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