Chandler-born Meredith Crawford’s new, second solo CD begins with a song she didn’t want to write about a person she didn’t like. The tall, red-haired singer-songwriter with the penetrating voice delivers lyrically meaningful, often wistful originals on "Transit."
Transit, as in transition: "the act of passing over, across, or through; passage."
"I started working on this album in winter 2017 and I’ve grown with its development," she said. "I was still finishing my accounting degree at UT Tyler when I started this project, and, though it’s taken me a long time to finish this album, I feel like it as well as myself underwent several major milestones." She credits producer Darrell Edwards and guitarist Chris Rasco for the sound of "Transit."
"I met Chris in spring 2017. We started playing shows together and played so many that eventually the sound he was creating live at shows had become so infectious that it needed to be shown in the album. I owe a lot of the shape of these sounds, these songs, to him and Darrell."
Known improperly in the Upper East Side of Texas as a country singer, Crawford began recording in fall 2018 with half of the songs still unwritten.
"Music should be a place where freedom of expression is invited," she said. "I’ve always wanted this album to exemplify freedom from being boxed in a genre because there are so many styles of music I enjoy. I couldn’t stand just saddling these songs down to one style."
Transit. As in transition. Thirteen years ago, about to become a junior in high school, she’d spent two years competing at opries: Gladewater, Texarkana, the Cotton Pickin’ Theater in Point, Mount Pleasant Jamboree, Johnnie High’s Country Music Revue in Arlington, and as far from home as the Texas Jamboree in Houston. Never won one.
The night Crawford turned 16, she won the Texas Talent Search by belting out Gretchen Wilson’s "Here for the Party" and Sugarland’s "Baby Girl."
"The opries are where I kinda really got into country," she said back then in the interview for her first feature in County Line Magazine. "I like the opries because you kinda test your stage skills that way. You get to see what you’re made of, what your talent is, if it’s worth anything, and to see what other people think. The opries are almost like going to a dress rehearsal.
"I didn’t even want to enter the Texas Talent Search. Before I did that competition, I had lost my confidence. I thought that if you had what it took to be a recording artist, you would win everything. But that’s not the way it is. If I had won my other competitions, I probably would have gotten spoiled. But this was the perfect time – my birthday – for me to win something really great."
Transit. Since 2006, Crawford’s grown up.
"I got knocked up," she said, laughing, before going on stage one recent night at The Forge in Ben Wheeler. Now, Crawford is a full-time accountant with two children: 10-year-old Wyatt and 9-year-old Annie. "They’re wonderful kids who continue to teach me every day."
She also averages about 10 gigs a month, often with Chris Rasco.
High school influences included Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette.
"When you’re young, sometimes your voice stays where you live," Crawford said. "Your voice is influenced by all these people around you, and you get your accent and that kinda reflects when you start to sing. You pick up things when you’re young."
She also liked Sheryl Crow and Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Janis Joplin; the Mamas and the Papas; Simon and Garfunkel; Gordon Lightfoot; Peter, Paul, and Mary; The Byrds, The Youngbloods, Steve Miller, etc.
"I really love Loretta Lynn for her country spirit. Her songs inspired me to be who I am. Janis Joplin was just wild, totally far out man," she said, laughing.
Today’s influences for the singer-songwriter-guitar player-keyboardist include Bobbie Gentry for her vocal stylings and local singer-songwriter Heather Little; "Heather challenges me." Plus Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell, and 70s’ folk, classic rock, blues, and the loosely defined Americana genre with its mix of country, rock, and folk roots.
Transition to Betty Lou Beets, who the state executed by lethal injection on February 24, 2000, for killing her fifth husband. Wikipedia summarizes her marriages this way: Married to her first husband when she was 15, her supporters said she was a victim of sexual abuse and domestic violence and had a criminal history prior to her arrest for murder, including public lewdness, and shooting former husband Bill Lane in the side of the stomach. Married six times, twice to the same man, Beets shot her second husband, Billy York Lane, twice in the back of the head in 1970; she was acquitted and the two remarried, divorcing again a month later. She later tried to run over her third husband, Ronnie C. Threlkold, with her car in 1978. Both men survived and testified at her murder trial.
The first song on "Transit" is "Beets." "Writing a song about her was mom’s idea at first. But it developed into a story as I researched. She was a terrible person but makes an interesting story."
The song, one of several memorable ones on the CD, begins with death row-sounding harmonica; it’s a bluesy rock song with electric guitar mayhem.
Other highlights among the 13 strong songs include the near-rockabilly sounding "(ain’t nothing sweeter than a) Heart That Takes You High; "11 Years," which recalls hometown heartache; "(I don’t want to be walking alone on a) Two-Way Street;" and the nearly eight-minute long, anthem-like title song which shares the thoughts of a woman with a past, who wants to believe in the future.