August 24, 2008
Do You Believe Me Now
Jimmy Wayne is one of the comeback kids of 2008 after a long, hard road to country music success. Once he arrived in Nashville, he had minor songwriting success before landing a record deal two years later. But after the release of his self-titled debut disc and four subsequent Top 40 hits, record label affairs caused Wayne to move from Dreamworks to Valory Music, subsidiary of Big Machine.
Do You Believe Me Now is the first release from Jimmy Wayne in almost five years. In that time, the landscape of country radio has changed, but the lead single from the project (the title track) has just achieved Top Five status on the Billboard charts. It’s a realistic look at losing the battle of a lover’s heart, and Wayne gives it a convincing turn.
But the first track also highlights the detriments that make this album just average. Nothing about the song is traditional, much like the album. This is all fine and good, but the production detracts from a decent batch of songs. The performances are convincing, and the lyrics are interesting enough at times, but the production bleeds through most of the album. It’s the single biggest problem on Do You Believe Me Now. In an effort to put forth a polished, mainstream country album, Wayne (along with producers Mark Bright, Joe West and Dave Pahanish) has crafted music that, in most cases, fails to complement the songs. In turn, the whole album loses any sort of identity or distinction, even when the songs are worthy.
Some of the songs speak of love lost, including “I Will,” the pledge of undying devotion even after the last goodbye is said, but a great many settle into inspirational territory. “Brighter Days,” a plea to a drifting lover to find faith and hope even when life is hard, seems like a Keith Urban reject. Same goes for the preceding track, “I’ll Be That.” And “I Didn‘t Come Here to Lose,” loosely based on his experiences while striving for a country career, is meant to empowering, but loses its sting among the buoyant musical atmosphere.
It’s no surprise that the song quality picks up with “No Good for Me,” a duet with Patty Loveless. One of the most non-traditional settings ever for a Loveless vocal, the mid-tempo number explores the back-and-forth of many a relationship: “We make up, and we make love/It’s a habit/I’m the addict/And you’re my drug.” The pair blend well together on a genuinely honest performance of a seemingly simple lyric, but Loveless is mostly responsible for elevating the track. It’s followed by “True Believer”, a positive number penned by Liz Rose and Lori McKenna that is a solemn vow to keep composure through love’s tests and trials. It’s understated and highly effective, both lyrically and musically.
Two true-to-life tracks are the highlights of the albums due to their interesting stories, even though they both could stand a more rootsy musical treatment. “Kerosene Kid” is the portrait of a child’s hardscrabble life, drawn from Wayne’s difficult upbringing. The last song, “Where You’re Going” is an autobiographical tune about Wayne’s time as a delinquent dropout. Both are deep reflections on a troubled background, and Wayne would do well to follow this muse more often. Most of the rest of Do You Believe Me Now? simply caters to country radio, and the production value overshadows even the most potent messages on an album that will please most Jimmy Wayne fans, but will likely fail to attract a new audience. Wayne is an above-average singer with an above-average set of songs, but the equation just never quite adds up.