Idaho native Eilen Jewel has been compared to a host of other artists…Gillian Welch, Billie Holiday, Lucinda Williams, Jolie Holland and Bessie Smith. Well, add Duane Eddy to the list. Jewell’s latest album, Queen Of The Minor Key, starts and ends with instrumentals driven by Jerry Miller’s twangy guitar and a honking sax sounding very much like the late-great Steve Douglas who featured on Eddy hits like Rebel Rouser and Moovin’ & Groovin’.
Like Gillian Welch, Eilen Jewell looks to the past for inspiration, just not as far back as Welch. Jewell’s sound is rooted in the late 50s and early 60s, a combination of jazz, country, rockabilly and blues. Vocally, she’s sounds like a cross between Jolie Holland and Madeline Peyroux, only a little more full-bodied.
After the brief (1:35) twang-fest of Radio City that opens the disk, Eileen wraps her sultry voice around one of the album’s best tunes (all written by Jewell) called I Remember You. It’s a slow, bluesy number featuring organist Tom West. Miller takes an emotional solo and the overall mood is not unlike B.B. King’s The Thrill Is Gone. Jewell gets in one of her best lyrics as well…I let you shoot my hats off because I knew you wouldn’t miss”.
The title track follows, a rockabilly number featuring Jewell’s band (guitarist Miller, drummer Jason Beek, upright bass player Johnny Sciascia) at their best. It’s over in a mere two minutes, leaving the listener wanting more.
Jewell’s previous release was a tribute to country legend Loretta Lynn and she continues her love affair with country music on several of the 14 tracks here including That’s Where We’re Going, Santa Fe and Over Again, a steel guitar driven ballad that Lucinda Williams would be proud of.
But my favourites are the rockers. Bang Bang Bang finds Cupid in a gun shop, purchasing a new shotgun to nail his next victims and Hooked features another honking sax solo while Jewell sings, “I’m stuck on you like a new tattoo”.
So forget the comparisons. Eilen Jewel has a unique voice of her own. Here, she and her band prove they don’t have to play second fiddle to anyone. Highly recommended.
Click here to listen to I Remember You from Queen Of The Minor Key: