Jeff Mamett,
Here's Your Hat
(Jackalope, 2015)

Jeff Mamett began playing out when he was 13, working bars and dances with older musicians. For years he did everything a working musician does: moved to LA and then to Nashville, doing session work, playing clubs and touring as a sideman in other artists' bands.

Then the kids started coming and he decided he needed to be home, so he went into the cattle business. When the kids were safely launched, he played a few songs at an open-mic night and caught the fever again. The result is this album.

Mamett calls himself an authentic traditional country singer and claims to be influenced by writers such as Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt (whose signature song, "Pancho & Lefty" appears on this disc,) Billy Joe Shaver and the rest of the outlaw writers and performers. His own sound, though, lacks the hard edge, the cutting anti-establishment attitude those guys brought to their music. Mamett bring a softer approach; vocally and as a writer, he harkens back to artists like Hank Snow and Hank Williams.

In fact, this album could have come out during the late 1950s, when country music was a distinct sound, when fiddles hadn't yet become violins and backgrounds had not been filled with the Anita Kerr Singers. It sounds like a album that was released before the Country Music Association decided they had to soften or destroy the sound in order to sell more records to a more sophisticated audience.

Listening to Jeff Mamett, you feel that no matter who he lists, he is more influenced by the likes of Hank Thompson and Red Steagel, whose song "About Horses & Wars" he covers beautifully.

Mamet's voice adds to the pleasure. It's flat, weathered as down-home as corn fields. His is not a set of pipes that sell a song; instead, he nudges it along, letting the words speak for themselves. He doesn't ever call attention to his singing; Mamet knows the song itself is what counts.

Acoustic guitars solo next to electric ones and everything sounds wonderfully aged, as though it had been soaking for a dozen years in a barrel of whiskey.

These are wonderful, well-played arrangements. Just listening to the band brings a blend of freshness to the old stuff, manifesting a humorous, light-hearted tone that is a pleasure to hear.

If you want to hear genuine country music, the way it was written and played before it was taken over by washed up '70s rockers and international corporations, Jeff Mamett is your man.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

31 October 2015

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