Friday, August 16, 2019

Eilen Jewell, Gypsy, 2019

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

The splendid Gypsy is Eilen Jewell's first album of original material since 2015's Sundown Over Ghost Town. It was produced by Jewell and her husband, Jason Beek, and features her excellent touring and recording band.

This finely tuned and most excellent quartet includes Jewell on electric and acoustic guitars as well as organ, Beek on drums, bassist Shawn Supra, and roadhouse guitarist Jerry Miller who bring their surf-noir, early blues, classic country, folk, and 1960s-era rocknroll influences to her songs.

The album kicks off with the sexy swamp rock of "Crawl." There's some CCR guitar in the mix and some fantastic fiddle playing by guest artist Katrina Nicolayeff who brings more than a little of a Scarlet Rivera vibe to the track. "Beat The Drum" also has a CCR beat to it like a slowed down "Run Through The Jungle."

Like "Crawl" and "Beat The Drum," there are other songs sprinkled throughout Gypsy that, because of their lyrics and/or arrangements, seem to be asking to be paired up. For example, both z'You Cared Enough To Lie" and "These Blues" are the kind of broken-hearted and lost-love Country & Western songs that would have been covered by Patsy Cline or Tammy Wynette.

"You Cared Enough To Lie" is the only cover on the album. The first time Jewell heard Pinto Bennett play the song in a dive bar in Idaho she knew that she had to record it; and, as she has said, it's one of the many songs she wishes she had written. Another guest, Dave Manion, adds some fine pedal steel guitar to the mix and Nicolayeff returns with her first-rate fiddle playing.

On "These Blues," Manion is center stage. There's Nicolayeff on fiddle and some wonderful down-home guitar playing. The overall sound of the song may remind you of "Stranger In The House," the song that Elvis Costello wrote for, and recorded with, George Jones.

Jewell has shared the stage with Lucinda Williams, and it's clear that her influence has filtered down to Jewell's songwriting and performances on this record. "Miles To Go" and, in particular, "Working Hard For Your Love" are illustrations of this. On "Working Hard For Your Love," the band is working hard and sounding great and the guitar parts are really something to admire.

Jewell's politics are brought to the fore on "79 Cents (The Meow Song)" and "Hard Times." "79 Cents (The Meow Song)" is her take on the difference in earning power between men and women workers as well as the differences in earnings of people of color and women with children. Although the song has a light tone and some Muswell Hillbilly-style horns, Jewell is dead serious about the situation.

"Hard Times" could have been written by Woody Guthrie and fits our troubled times as much as it would his. As a result, the song works as an anthem with its simple, direct lyrics. And, by the way, there's also some terrific bluesy guitar work going on.

Gypsy is out now on Signature Sounds.

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