Ah, the devastation of the breakup album. You’ve probably heard several but it’s not likely that you’ve heard one as piercing as Seen Enough Leavers, the third release from East Nashville singer-songwriter Meghan Hayes. So, it begs the question of why one would want to listen to songs full of despair, spite, and pain. There are at least four reasons to listen to these songs from Hayes – she has the poet’s gift for literate songwriting, her soprano voice delivers not only emotion but unpredictable phrasing in places, her supporting band is comprised of top-shelf Nashville musicians, and most importantly, there are enough threads of hope to keep you engaged in her stories.
Coping and moving forward is really the major thrust of the album although many of lyrics reflect deep pain and bitterness as a cathartic means of maintaining her own footing. The album comes of the heels of a divorce from a 20-year marriage. Although, as you would expect, many of the moods are dark, the music is surprisingly varied, ranging from simple folk to roaring rock and gleaming pop. Among those behind that sound are guitarist Audley Freed (Sheryl Crow), vocalist Mando Saenz, keyboardist Derry DeBorja (Jason Isbell), and producer Dex Green (bass, piano) among several others. Joe Costa engineered.
Hayes provides a booklet with the lyrics to each song. It should have come with a warning label “ Not for the feint of heart.” If you’re able to keep your emotions intact while listening and viewing her words, you’ll be able to appreciate her considerable talents as a writer. Her thought patterns and imagery will undoubtedly impress. Let’s take a brief look at three of the major tracks.
The title track speaks to the dissolution of a relationship quite directly. Here is the opening verse to the title track followed by the chorus – “There is steel in his eye that says I oughta pack/But I’ve seen enough leavers to know he won’t be back/Some things are just true like I stayed too long with you/Too long awhile….Time’s the fastest thing I know/It’s run away with everything I’ve had to show/With all the months and years spent dodging your blows/Time’s the fastest thing I know.”
The single “A Birthday in the Pawnshop (Morristown)” reminisces alternately nostalgically, bitterly, and ultimately tragically on the life of a struggling couple with verses like (third verse) “We called our baby Lile and we set to work/To spare that child a world of hurt/In between jobs we took the time /To love on her and teach her nursery rhymes……(last verse)”The night before Lila reached the age of nine/I threw myself a farewell party of meth and wine/The walls were dirty and the lights were dim/Rex identified my body as next of kin/ In Morristown.”
“Next Time Around” is much like the title track but focuses on the move itself, picking up the pieces and moving on – (Opening verse) “Squares of clean pain unmasked by your exit/Floors unburdened by rugs/I should be scrambling to cover these things up but I’m not….(Chorus) Even the leaves are leaving/I don’t know if they get pushed or they leap/I’ll be pointing this whole load south/By the end of next week.”
You get the idea. Tread lightly but take the time to marvel at Hayes’s courageous and brilliant songwriting. Let the emotions fall where they will.