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Hoses of the Holy in the Parallel Universe

June 13, 2005

The Uncanny Jessi Alexander

jessi_matraca Older readers may remember that I am very fond indeed of the songwriter Matraca Berg, writer of countless hit songs for a multitude of country artists, from Randy Travis to Faith, Martina, and Trisha.

Her own recording career has been chequered, with a couple of early pop/rock releases that did nothing and went nowhere, followed by a long record-company-enforced hiatus that ended in 1997 with the best album of that year: Sunday Morning to Saturday Night, packed full of brilliant songs, from the wit of "Back in the Saddle" to the poignancy of "The Resurrection."

The difficulty with an artist like Berg concerns her willingness to tour and/or suck up to the morons who run Country radio. She does neither, very much, and you can't blame her when you consider the toll taken by the kind of itinerary organised by the morons who run record companies, and the casualties that litter the road.

When you've been making a good living writing songs and staying put, the idea of 200 nights on the road and 200 identical interviews on 200 identical radio franchises must make you think twice.

Add to this a record label (Rising Tide) that sinks without trace, and - unbelievably - 1997 was the last time Ms Berg troubled the shops.

If you ever go to Nashville, you might be lucky enough to see her at the famous Bluebird cafe and other venues. Her Web site after years of not doing much, seems much more active right now.

It's ironic that one of the news items on the web site mentions that one Jessi Alexander appeared at the Bluebird with Matraca. Ironic, because I've played Ms Alexander's record Honeysuckle Sweet several times now, and every single time it strikes me how uncannily like Matraca she sounds. Not just her voice - the whole production sounds like Berg's last album.

I've checked the production credits, and, no, even though one or two of the usual suspects appear on both records, they aren't from the same production team.

I mentioned to my wife how much like Matraca Jessi sounded and she just said, "You mean it isn't?"

So if you're Jonesing for Matraca, you could do worse than get some Jessi Alexander. It's a fine record, and close enough to the real thing to alleviate symptoms, like methadone to a heroin addict.


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