Boomerang Town
Folk N’ Roll Records/Thirty Tigers

While there are defined stages of grief, no one navigates them in order. Thoughts of “this can’t be real” evolve into a dark depression. A peaceful moment of acceptance is suddenly run over by a fit of anger. And while we most associate grief with death, the depth of such internal pain is felt whenever the heart breaks, from love lost or life playing out in an opposite direction.

Boomerang Town is Jaimee Harris’ exploration of grief in different ways. The price of entry for this emotional journey is a trio of songs that take up almost 20 minutes. That’s a lot of intense emotion to pack at the start, and while the stories are vivid in each, they tend to hang heavy. Sure, a lengthy song can parallel the seemingly difficult and winding path of healing, but condensed versions could have been as impactful.

Harris began putting ideas together for the album, her second, back in 2016, a time marked by the deaths of those close to her and brewing political tension in the country. She begins with the title track, loosely based on people in her life. The characters seek greener pastures, but, for one reason or another, can’t leave their small town. This 7-minute opener weaves into “Sam’s,” a 5-minute song of longing and spiraling despair, increasingly punctuated by strings. The 6-minute “How Could You Be Gone” covers the conflicting feelings that weave in and out at a funeral of a loved one. It completes the album’s poignant trio with a refrain that crescendos like a colossal wave. Co-written with Mary Gauthier, the song is a tribute to Harris’ mentor, who died of cancer, and a friend she lost during the pandemic.

The country-folk singer-songwriter, splitting time between Austin and Nashville, shines in the second half of the album. “On The Surface” and “Fall (Devin’s Song)” touch on our nation’s political divide and how those issues seep into our personal lives.

“On The Surface” is an insightful reflection of how we create truths for ourselves. “Are you free or are you hiding from the things you don’t agree with or believe in?” Harris sings. “Skim the text, find the lines that feed your purpose / It’s so easy to love your brother on the surface.”

In “Fall (Devin’s Song),” Harris takes the perspective of a mother who’s lost her son. After dreaming about what his life would have been like, she sings, “That morning when you left us, we had no time to say goodbye / Our hearts are forever broken, Lord please kiss him and hold our angel tight.” The song is a tribute to both a classmate who was accidentally shot and killed in middle school and his mother. And while it’s about someone from Harris’ past, the song still feels timely, given the increasing number of deadly school shootings.

Harris rewards us for going on this emotional journey with two songs of hope. Both “Love Is Gonna Come Again” and “Missing Someone” convey that, in the end, while painful, grief is also love-enduring: “Love will find you and remind you of the things you thought you’d give up feeling,” Harris sings. “Love is gonna come again.”

Cover promo photo by Brandon Aguilar.