Jaime Wyatt's life story is about as country as it gets. After a recording contract fell through when she was 17, Wyatt developed a drug problem that ended in her robbing her dealer and going to jail. She spent eight months in county jail and came out the other side with a new lease on life—along with the seven tracks that constitute Felony Blues. Those include a cover of Merle Haggard's "Misery and Gin" and the original composition "Stone Hotel," an exuberant track about making peace with jail life ("Time holds still at the stone hotel / three free meals on the county bill").
Wyatt was born in Los Angeles but grew up in rural Washington, near Seattle. Country music was a big part of life for her family; distant relatives on her mom's side even lived in Bakersfield. The capital of California country music's influence can be heard throughout Felony Blues.
"My mother's extended family played country in Bakersfield. I never knew that, I was just always drawn to that kind of singing," Wyatt says of her distinctive twang. "I remember seeing a pedal steel in their trailer, their double wide."
For all intents and purposes Wyatt is outlaw country through and through. "I just like to take country and fuck it up" she tells me, paraphrasing Shooter Jennings, a good friend of hers. "I try not to get too frustrated with labels on that. I do think it's funny that the outlaw country thing is so big right now, calling it that even is funny. Most folks don't know about living outside of the law."
Felony Blues is out on Forty Below Records on Feb 24. Listen below.