Jaimee Harris named her sophomore album Boomerang Town after the town she grew up in. It seemed to have a certain gravitation effect on those who tried to leave and certainly didn’t impress Harris.
“It felt to me like a lot of folks who tried to leave my hometown ended up coming back, and ended up coming back pretty quickly,” she explained. “It’s not small enough to be a small town with small town charm and it’s not big enough to be a city. I think it’s not only common that you might feel stuck, but I think it’s common particularly in areas like this where the Evangelical Christian foot is on your face, that although the concept should be redemption that it’s harder to overcome that.”
The album Harris created is superb and weighty, tackling subjects like suicide, alcoholism, grief, and religion. It’s a reflection of not only her own struggles but the stories of folks from her boomerang town that she was so expertly able to inhabit. The title track is told from the perspective of a friend’s older brother who impregnated his girlfriend at a young age. Another is from the point of view of a mother who lost her young son to a bullet.
Harris’ own story and that of her family is woven into the album. Though she managed to leave her hometown in her pursuit of music, a family history of suicide and alcoholism inhabits “The Fair and Dark Haired Lad.” The song captures at least three generations of pain, from her grandfather down to her.
“I’ve been in recovery for a little over nine years now, so my understanding of alcoholism is constantly changing,” Harris said. “I was able to see what my grandfather was dealing with and what other people in my family were up against. I’ve been privileged to have less of it, though my biology and mental health still goes there.”
Other standouts on the album include the comforting “Love is Gonna Come Again,” the boozy and hazy “Sam’s” and the deconstructionist “On the Surface.” But no song feels quite as raw as “How Could You Be Gone,” a portrait of grief Harris wrote with her partner Mary Gauthier, who happens to be a fantastic musician and songwriter in her own right. It describes what Harris experienced after losing her mentor Jimmy LaFave.
“Some days I can think about Jimmy and talk about Jimmy and I can hear him sing and I can laugh,” Harris said. “And other days someone can barely mention his name and I start bursting out crying, and her passed away in 2017. There’s several days when I want to call him and tell him that he died. There are all these moments when I physically pick up my phone and try to call him.”
Throughout the album, the realness and power of Harris’ emotions come through on her well-constructed songs. Longer tracks feel epic in scope rather than drawn out and even the more hopeful tracks feel genuine and possible. Harris seems destined to become one of Americana’s greats after an album like this.
Above is the full episode as aired on WUSB’s Country Pocket, including both my interview with Jaimee Harris and the songs we discussed, starting with the epic Boomerang Town, which serves as the title track. The interview begins afterward. You can hear the show live every Monday at 11am on WUSB 90.1 FM or check the blog to watch it as a YouTube playlist. Visit http://www.WUSB.fm and https://www.jaimeeharris.com for more.