Noir as song is sometimes difficult to identify, but always seems slightly pretentious when done in reviews: what does it even mean? Well, give a listen to “Georgette,” lead track from Meghan Hayes’ Seen Enough Leavers.
Through the repetition of lines and an emphasis on rhyme, complemented by challenging staccatos of guitar notes (Audley Freed) and building percussion (Tommi Rautiainen), a near four-minute black and white sketch is created, one that leaves the listener with more questions than are answered. That’s noir. That’s Seen Enough Leavers.
Appealing to those who dig the more modern breed of Americana (Lucette, Mandolin Orange, Celeigh Cardinal) as well as those of us who are more archival in tastes (Maria McKee especially comes to mind, maybe Matraca Berg and Meg Hutchinson, too) Meghan Hayes emerges from a many-years recording absence to deliver one of 2019’s most impressive recordings.
Seen Enough Leavers is a gorgeous sounding album, literate and intense. I’m told that her gathered band of musicians are some of the finest to be assembled, Goffrey Moore (acoustic guitar), Dex Green (bass, and more, also producer), and Thayer Sarrano (pedal steel, piano) among them. Derry DeBorja (Jason Isbell) stops by, as does Mando Saenz.
Coming out of East Nashville and a twenty-year marriage, the dissolution of which—reading between the lines—can’t have been overly positive, Hayes has gathered a set of original songs that aren’t always easy to understand. They are not of my experience, and since she writes in a more poetic manner than some, not every nuance is going to be caught by the philistine I sometimes need to admit I am.
“Burley” is crushing, “A Birthday in the Pawnshop (Morristown)” even more so. And those are two songs that almost sound upbeat, if you aren’t listening too closely. Her offered therapy isn’t necessarily only in the writing, it is in the listening. Jesus, there is darkness here, and one needs to remember that the best songs don’t always reflect the songwriter. Similarly, connecting with a particular song doesn’t reveal personal turmoil.
Seen Enough Leavers is aptly titled. “Next Time Around” is yet another song of abandonment, loss, and leaving: “Heard you’re calling this amicable to your mother,” is about as light a quip as the album contains. Whatever was going on while Hayes was writing these songs, she’s determined to pick up the pieces. The mood is definitely sombre, but it makes for damn fine listening. Her melodies are sharp, the instrumentation absolutely ideal.
“Some things are just true, like I stayed too long with you,” Hayes sings in the title song, a bastion of affirmation amongst an emotional train wreck of failed relationships. Hayes is holding on, no matter the challenge, and her music is going to be the salvation.
If you’re the type of person who enjoys listening to Mark Erelli late at night, under a tin roof in a rain storm, who believes Grey Delisle’s The Graceful Ghost is one of the finest albums ever produced, and who knows a book that doesn’t make you tear-up isn’t worth the time, I’m thinking Seen Enough Leavers is going to be of interest.
Buy Meghan Hayes’ album.