By Helen Jerome
On each listen of this record, you further grasp the breadth of Mya Byrne’s ambition and her songwriting prowess, with that crucial added ingredient of the perfect producer.
1. It Don’t Fade
2. I’m Gonna Stop
3. Autumn Sun
4. Devil In My Ear
5. Come On
7. Smoke and Bones
8. Lend You a Hand
9. Please Call Me Darlin’
10. Sweetheart of Mine
11. Don’t Hold Your Fire
12. That’s What Lucky Means
Pushing the Americana envelope in different directions, from the impressive variety in the dozen songs here to the wit of the album title – a deliberate riff on the Glen Campbell hit – Mya Byrne offers up her distinctive take on the genre through the lens of being a trans woman today.
Key to making Byrne’s album a success is the brilliant and inventive pairing of artist and producer. Forming the dream team with Byrne is her old friend Aaron Lee Tasjan, who doesn’t just leave his mark on the overall sound of the record as her producer, but also adds his trademark guitar and organ skills to the mix.
You can feel Tasjan’s influence on ‘I’m Gonna Stop’, replete with its pop sensibility and Scott Stein's fab organ playing that shows off his love of Tom Petty, George Harrison and the Travelling Wilburys. He also provides an instantaneous warmth to the opening track ‘It Don’t Fade’, thanks to its skipping melody weaving hand in hand with Byrne's optimistic lyrics.
One of the major highlights of Byrne’s album is ‘Devil In My Ear’, which creates a slightly menacing yet magnificent soundscape. The guitars and drums crash together as piles of feedback drowns the track in a sinuously swirling climax. This leads into the glam-flavoured single ‘Come On’, which possesses an explosive guitar solo and pleading vocal that was specifically written after the death of John Prine.
Byrne and Tasjan are clearly having a ball when they embrace their mutual love for country music, notably with ‘Curtains’, which boasts a heavy amount of lap steel and a whole heap of sadness. They further dip their toes into instant country – almost a tongue-in-cheek parody of the genre – on ‘Please Call Me Darlin’, with its breathy, half-spoken vocals, more steel guitar and delightful harmonies.
Their direct experience of the 2018 California fires informs ‘Smoke and Bones’, as Byrne’s visceral portrait of the aftermath is bathed in a heavy atmosphere: “Plastic rubber diesel oil droplets in the air / A hundred miles south it hurts to breathe”.
‘Don’t Hold Your Fire’ and ‘That’s What Lucky Means’ though could not contrast each other more, with the former’s earworm of a chorus contrasting against the acoustic guitar and intimate vocals that the latter delivers to extoll life’s simpler pleasures.
On each listen of this record, you further grasp the breadth of Mya Byrne’s ambition and her songwriting prowess, with that crucial added ingredient of the perfect producer. Dream team indeed.
Mya Byrne's 2023 album, Rhinestone Tomboy, is released April 28 via Kill Rock Stars Nashville. You can purchase the record from one of Holler's selected partners below:
For more country albums released in 2023 and their release dates, head here.