Jeremy Ivey Brings The Goods With Half Crazy Horse/Heartbreakers Sounding Band Via ‘Waiting Out the Storm’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

When we brought you Jeremy Ivey’s wife, Margo Price’s, review several months ago, we wrote about Ivey’s battle with COVID-19 and the scare that the couple had when the tornado wreaked havoc on East Nashville this Spring. Well, this is Ivey’s musical response to those events and in a larger sense our world in 2020 with Waiting Out the Storm.

Ivey gets to it right away on the opening track, “Tomorrow People” asking. “Hey tomorrow people / how do you like it there? / How do you see yourself / and how does now compare?” Having survived the virus, Ivey is a guy that knows what it feels like to emerge on the other side after being in state when the tomorrows were not guaranteed. “It was rough. I had to deal with my mortality in a way that I hadn’t done yet. I’m enjoying my life a little bit more now, though. I’m appreciating my health more. Sometimes it takes staring death in the face to get to that point.” We best listen up. Ivey has plenty to say on this terrific rock n’ roll album.

With his rock solid, half Crazy Horse-half Heartbreakers sounding band, the Extraterrestrials, Ivey not only expands his sound from last year’s The Dream and the Dreamer, but he brings a passionate sense of urgency too.  “I decided to be political, but not so strongly one-sided about it,” he says when speaking about the album’s lyrical themes. “Some of these songs are about things that are current, but they could also be true 30 years from now.” Indeed, it’s impossible to hear songs like the hard-driving “Things Could Get Much Worse” or the angry, almost crazed anti-authoritarian “Hands Down in Your Pockets” and not feel that these songs are universally applicable to almost any era, maybe even those that lie ahead. Who could have predicted this 2020 world anyway?

Ivey surely studied the classic artists in formulating his sound. Dylan echoes the most loudly  (consider this lyric reminiscent of Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde in “Paradise Alley “ – “Assassins in drag are throwing roses/To street performer/In the bankrupt empire/where the mayor hides/Out in the corners” or this from “How It Has to Be” – “Pocahontas, Walt Disney and Al Capone/They’re gathering up dust for the tombstone/All the mourners in their black veils sing and moan”). Yet Neil Young, Tom Petty, and even strains of The Beatles are found in various songs. Ivey does a commendable job of melding these together but at times it’s hard to shake the notion that you’ve heard it before. Having said that though, the derivative aspect does not drag the album down because Ivey’s lyrics, and in some cases, his tone are engaging.  

For example, there’s the moody, overcast first single “Someone Else’s Problem,” which touches on universal themes of mutual compassion in society and what happens when it starts to fade: “Margo and I wrote it in about an hour on a flight from New York to Nashville,” he explains. “We went back and forth till it came to me on the last verse, and I finally made the point that I wanted to. We’re all connected. Everything you do affects everyone else, and everything everyone else does affects you.” Ostensibly, the song is about climate change, but Ivey stirs in racial injustice and homelessness, all pointing toward the fleeting notion of cooperation. It’s heady stuff.

Provocative strains are present throughout, an example being the final chorus from “Movies”- “They don’t make movies like they used to/They don’t write those stories anymore/They don’t make heroes out of celluloid like before/they don’t make heroes out of celluloid anymore.” “Hands Down In Your Pockets” though is pure rage set to a Crazy Horse kind of backdrop. “White Shadow” is a scathing rail against the current administration or maybe even generally the power structure  – “You fed us bullets, carve our idols/Chewed up lies and spit out bibles/You made a ghetto out of paradise/Treated women like merchandise”   and  “Your medicine just made us sick/You’re running with the Bolshevik/Who’s got your kingdom I the pocket/Who’s eyes and mouth are full of vomit.”  This seems to fly in the face of Ivey’s earlier comment about “not so strongly one-sided about it.” “Loser Town” makes mockery of our current sad state of affairs with searing guitars and the Beatlesque chorus of “Yeah, yeah, yeah” set to a Heartbreakers-like soundtrack. 

There are plenty of acerbic observations on the media and our one-sided news outlets in both “What’s the Matter Esther” and the closing “How It Has to Be.”  Few current artists have so effectively married searing rock n’ roll with equally biting lyricism. Jason Isbell, Will Hoge, and Steve Earle do come to mind.  Yet, Ivey’s skill in wading through this gloomy landscape is his ability to make observations and raise questions rather than preach.  And again, his band drives these tunes hard, making this a strong contender for one of the year’s best.

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