I've been spreading the word on Eilen Jewell since 2006, when her wonderfully dark, folksy, Billie Holiday stamped debut Boundary County first hit my consciousness and where it stubbornly stays. She soon signed to the Signature Sounds, ensuring that a much wider audience got to hear her gloriously retro Letters From Sinners and Strangers and Sea of Tears as they shook up a very complacent and predictable Americana scene. Since then she has toured relentlessly, released Butcher Holler her rootsy tribute to Loretta Lynn, and played a key part in The Sacred Shakers a hoot of down-home gospel country.
Queen Of the Minor Key is her best yet. Setting the tone with the sleazy and shadowy sax work-out Radio City, Jewell immediately hits us with a keeper. Remember You is alluring genius: her late night whiskey slur sliding over a lover's reminiscence ("I taught you how to kiss/ Let you shoot my hats off 'cos I knew you wouldn't miss") Santa Fe finds the yearning heart resigned, but still seeking . The rockabilly swing fest title track and the waltzing Reckless conjure a sawdust-on-the-dance floor, broken hearted Saturday night town dance. The hot shotgun country snap of Bang Bang Bang wherein our lovelorn heroine discovers Cupid not with arrow and bow but at a gun show flaunting his six gauge is an irrepressibly good time.
Jewell wrote all fourteen songs here, but it is her stalwart band shifting from rock to rockabilly and all stops in between—drummer Jason Beek, swinging upright bassist Johnny Sciascia, and especially twang master Jerry Miller, who serves and enhances as Jewell's instrumental counter-part—that bring all these seductive tunes to life. Eilen Jewell has and continues to be the real thing. Accept no substitutes.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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