Nashville rocker Carly Jamison‘s 2011 album Everything Happens for a Reason mixed up crushingly sarcastic, Americana-flavored four-on-the-floor rock with the occasional detour into honkytonk, spiced with former Georgia Satellite Dan Baird’s nonchalantly scorching guitar work. Her new one, Ungrounded is much the same musically, less assaultively lyrical, with similarly purist production and solid tunesmithing. Simple, catchy hooks, warmly familiar themes and a heavy foot on the kick drum propel this solid, oldschool mix of tunes. It’s got the feel of a vinyl record from the 80s…but an American one, drums in the back, vocals up where they should be, with rich, volcanic layers of roaring, smoldering, jangling, screaming guitars.
The opening track, Superman Fantasy sets big brass riffs and swirly organ over a Stonesy stomp: “I don’t need no x-ray vision to see right through your walls,” Jamison intones. And then after an all-too-brief Baird solo, she turns the lyric inside out. It’s a cool touch.
No Easy Way Out is richly layered noir 60s garage-psych rock with a heavy 80s backbeat. I Don’t Think We Have Ever Met reaches for a mid-60s Dylanesque folk-rock vibe. Small Talk takes a dirty indie blues theme and beefs it up with big-studio drums, organ, soaring bass and more of those deliciously roaring, multitracked guitars. And Sailing Away disguises a stereotypical 90s singer-songwriter tune amid all the searing Stonesy sonics: “You could have been the careless sailor, could have been the helpless crew, could have been the broken compass that let the ship through.. maybe you’ll be sailing away, but I know I’ll be back dredging you up,” Jamison murmurs.
Prison builds from a slinky, fingersnapping kiss-off ballad into a gorgeously swaying, explosive rock anthem – the way Baird’s evil, backward-masked solo takes everything down to the second verse is one of many of the innumerably cool production touches here. Runaway Train, an amped-up rockabilly shuffle, is a lot more optimistic; Brand New Day nicks the chords from Iggy Pop’s the Passenger while revealing Jamison’s fondness for chocolate donuts.
Traveling On is a catchy highway rock tune with a distant Tex-Mex feel, followed by the shuffling Say Goodbye. The album ends with Jamison’s best song here, I Said I Loved You But I Lied, a creepy acoustic bolero with ominously lingering accordion and violin that wouldn’t be out of place in the Marni Rice catalog. Roll down the windows, let out the clutch and leave some rubber on the road with this one.