Jeremy Ivey

REVIEW: Jeremy Ivey “Invisible Pictures”


Jeremy Ivey — Invisible Pictures

“When you sing a melody in your head, you can either put three chords around it or nine. This time, I aimed for nine.” That was Jeremy Ivey’s intent when recording his third album. More motion, more swirl, more depth. And, after two years of empty concert halls and lo-fi webstreams, the big, full, space-filling sound of Invisible Pictures is just what we need.

Ivey set a high bar from the outset of Invisible Pictures, selecting a new producer, Andrija Tokic (Ivey’s first two albums were produced by Margo Price). He then asked Tokic to pick musicians that Ivey had never played with. That sense of fresh partnership leaps off the first track. “Orphan Child” pairs a bouncy Marxophone (think of it as a tiny piano crossed with a harp) and a ragged guitar line as an upbeat counter to Ivey’s deep-rooted tale of alienation, from being adopted as a child “My family tree’s on fire/And I don’t belong here” – to passing through life as a penniless musician to today, reflecting a bit of the unmoored sensation we’re all feeling – “I used to study every new face/Now I keep my eyes to the ground.” “Trial By Fire,” featuring the nylon string guitar that inspired much of his playing on the album, shows Ivey trying to quiet some of the self-created internal noise – “See the sky full of stars/Every one is a mistake/That you’ve made in your life/That you were always going to mistake.” After a time of so little control over one’s personal circumstances, it’s an understandably fatalistic approach to inner peace.

Most of Invisible Pictures, in fact, is downtrodden lyrics buoyed by big arrangements. “Downhill (Upside Down Optimist)” is a mini-epic characterized by strings and a swirling organ line while Ivey notes that, “I am just a joke myself waiting to be told.” “Grey Machine” is a charming, disarming look at beauty against the bland – “Now she cleans the tables for these clowns…A red rose in the grey machine” – where fiddle and pedal steel distract somewhat from the song’s melancholia. “Black Mood,” though, lays its sense of foreboding out in the open, with John Pahmer’s haunted-mansion organ fiff driving Ivey’s look at depression – “I couldn’t beat him/So I made my demon my best friend.”

But it takes a duet with Price to bring out a hint of cockeyed optimism in Ivey. The title track is a look at all that Nashville’s been through over the past two years, a topic all too familiar to the two married Music City vets. It’s a walkabout-town tune paced by Ivey’s acoustic guitar, and it recalls the 2020 Christmas Day bombing – “They’re sweeping up glass and debris/From our city’s latest catastrophe.” Even as Ivey catalogs his town’s problems – crime, homelessness and an overall loss of community – he can still imagine the good that once was, and maybe still is, a part of Nashville: “Invisible pictures that I hang/To cover up these walls of shame.” If the folks that love Nashville as much as Ivey (despite his protestations) so obviously does are able to pass on the best of the city to the new folks coming in, perhaps the city is not lost. Like I said: cockeyed optimism.

Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: “Keep Me High” – a love song, of sorts, written with Price. Could make another nice duet…

Invisible Pictures was produced by Andrija Tokic and Jeremy Ivey, engineered by Tokic, mixed by Tokic and Rob Schnapf and mastered by Mark Chalecki. All songs were written by Ivey, with Margo Price co-writing “Keep Me High.” Additional musicians on the album include Tokic (rototoms, guzheng, timpani, percussion), Schnapf (electric slide guitar), Price (vocals), Megan Coleman (drums, percussion), Jack Lawrence (bass), Alex Munoz (electric guitar), Jeff Taylor (marxophone), Micah Hulscher (organ, piano), Derek Phillips (drums, percussion), Billy Contreras (strings), John Pahmer (organ, piano), Zack Setchfield (lead guitar), Coley Hinson (bass), Josh Minyard (drums), Evan Donohue (rhythm guitar) and Chris Scruggs (pedal steel, bass).

Oder Invisible Pictures (out March 11) here:

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