Romi Mayes:
Sweet Somethin' Steady



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I’m not quite sure exactly what they’re doing over there in Canada, but they’ve certainly produced a lot of great singer/songwriters over the last decade or so. Not that I’m complaining mind you, because it’s usually music that I really like, and Romi Mayes are certainly no exception. I understand that this album recently has been reissued by a bigger label, which ought to make it more accessible, and it is definitely worth seeking out.

Mayes music is solid roots rock with obvious influences from both country and blues, which places her in the same musical landscape as fellow country woman Kathleen Edwards and not least Lucinda Williams. On this album, non other than Gurf Morlix (whose collaborations include, amongst others, Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen and Buddy Miller) has been in charge of production, which he handles as gallantly as ever. He also sits in with the excellent band she’s assembled on a couple of songs, and the musical performance really is irreproachable.

But great musicians really are noting without great songs to play, but have no fear, Mayes turns out to be an exceptional songwriter. More often than not the music is a sort of slow shuffling country rock, with slightly dreamlike arrangements with sweeping steel and electric guitars upfront, not entirely unlike another great Canadian songwriter, Justin Rutledge. Just like him, she has the ability to write evocative songs that really grabs a hold of the listener, which alongside honest and soulful lyrics provides a listening experience that really evokes the emotions of the listener.

The themes in the lyrics are familiar, but are in no way laden with clichés, but are instead honest and entertaining reflections on longing, loneliness, love and lust. The opener Eight More Days is a somewhat blues infused song about life on the road and longing for home that seems to be entirely sincere and based on personal experiences. Desperately is a low key, melancholy ballad that states that it is in fact okay to occasionally need someone; just ’cuz I’m strong, don’t mean that I’m happy/just ’cuz you’re wrong, don’t mean that I can’t be…just ’cuz I’m here don’t mean I ain’t empty/you just call me dear and I’ll give you plenty.

Even sparser is the acoustic, bittersweet ballad Angeline that tells a story of how a relationship that has been dead for a long time still can cause pain; I guess I knew we wouldn’t make it/but what do I do with all these tears. More on broken relationships can be heard in the hauling country rock of Let Me Run, this time however questioning whether saying goodbye really was the right thing to do. More tempo and guitars with more bite is served up in the smoking blues rock of The Other Dame, where loneliness and lust are tackled in a more hands on approach; I am righteous but I’m randy/your love tastes like candy/bring it on. The title-track covers more on the same subject, love doesn’t necessarily have to be taken so seriously; don’t need to hear you love me while you look deeply in my eyes/why can’t you be me sweet somethin’ steady inside.

Mayes deliver these stories in a voice that is both warm and soulful, a sort of mixture with a just a hint of Lucinda Williams rasp and a big dash of Danni Leighs honey-coated sensualism. It goes, just as her music and lyrics, straight for the heart and together they make this a very special occurrence, where every song feels like an almost indispensable experience that makes me want to listen to them over and over again. This album is quite simply a masterpiece, and as such it should be consider essential for everyone who likes rootsy singer/songwriters.

Roger Persson - 20080726

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