Jeremy Ivey | Waiting Out the Storm | (Anti-)
3 1/2 out of five stars
As the follow up to Jeremy Ivey’s 2019’s debut, the much acclaimed The Dream and the Dreamer, his new album Waiting Out the Storm takes a topical turn with songs that allude to the malaise that’s seeping the nation in the wake of our current political maelstrom, a concurrence of natural disasters, the Covid pandemic, and the growing resolve of the Black Lives Matter movement and the racism found in its stead. It’s not a preachy record by any means, but it does stir some sentiments and speak to those issues and concerns that have forced Americans to wake up and take notice, no matter which side of the divide they happen to be on.
“Yeah, it was actually written before my first album was released, but these kind of things have been making headlines for a while,” Ivey suggests when asked about the origins of his stirring new songs. “Racism, violence and greed have been the backbone of civilization for some time.”
Ivey adds that he’s injected his own insights into this material, suggesting that he’s been more than a mere outside observer. “Yes, I’ve lived inside each one of these stories,” he affirms somewhat obliquely. “I’ve seen Walt Disney, Al Capone and Oprah hanging out with Warhol. I’ve seen the queen of doom wringing her hands and holy meat walking down the street. I’ve seen the shattered windows of clinics and prostitutes in steel-toed boots too. It’s all truth.”
Given that Ivey seems resigned to a more pessimistic perspective, suffice it to say he views things from a decidedly bleak point of view. “Our country has lost every bit of morals and dignity, but maybe our country never had that in the first place,” he insists. “We need to wake up and start treating each other the way that we want to be treated, because if that doesn’t happen, you think this pandemic is bad? There will be a great judgment on this world and everyone in it if we don’t take this kind of thing seriously. When one person kills another person, and it’s known publicly, and no one is tried or punished for it, the end is near. Things could get much worse.”
A resident of Nashville, he was also impacted by the tornado that swept through his city just prior to the pandemic. That too, had a marked effect on his mindset. “I suppose it was in reference, in literal terms, to the tornado that brought the apocalypse winds through Nashville,” he muses “In metaphorical terms, I guess it’s about waiting to die, for this world to be over.”
Hmmm. That’s certainly a cataclysmic conclusion, and though Ivey seems to have given up hope for any kind of reconciliation through that weary and worrisome world view (“I have total faith that nothing will be affirmed,” he declares), the songs themselves are strangely easy, alluring, and even assuringly sounding at times. Despite Ivey’s downcast demeanor, individual offerings such as “How It Has To Be,” “Things Could Get Much Worse,” “What’s the Matter Esther,” and “Tomorrow People” ring with a resilience conveyed through unassuming melodies and, at times, quite a seductive saunter. Yet that sense of doom and gloom is never far from the surface. “They say the best part of the day is the beginning and the end,” Ivey opines in “Movies” before adding “The hardest part for me is knowing they won’t come again.”
Recorded with his group The Extraterrestrials, and produced by his wife Margo Price and with contributions from members of her backing band, the album is, he says, was the result of the pair’s ability to work well together and remain, as he describes it, “relaxed and focused.”
Indeed, despite his decidedly downcast demeanor — imagine John Cale, Nick Cave and Lou Reed crashing one another’s therapy sessions and turning them into one colossal vent — several songs find a spark that manages to illuminate even the darkest designs. “Hands Down in Your Pockets, “Paradise Alley” and “Loser Town” — the latter a riveting onslaught of demand and despair — come across as ringing rockers, flush with urgency and exhilaration. That also allows for any number of ever-constant zingers, such as when Ivey asks one particularly pointed question: “Would you like to see the golden rule turn to rust?”
In addition to all his other concerns, Ivey happened to contract Covid early on, but fortunately he also recovered. Nevertheless, he says he deliberately avoided referencing that experience in any way, focusing instead on the bigger picture that had him so preoccupied. “Music is cathartic for sure, but these songs had nothing to do with my experience with Covid,” he confirms. “It was a two month long nightmare. I was in and out of the ER, but in the end, strangely enough, I don’t think I would trade the experience for health and ease. Being on the edge of death can teach you a lot. I did in fact end up writing a few things while I was sick, but who knows if they will ever be released… Pretty dark stuff.”
And this album isn’t? It’s an obvious question. Ultimately, Ivey makes it a point to spurn any hint of optimism, even when it involves his own prospects for his moving his music forward.
“Progress?,” he replies. “No progress, but some process.”
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