Monday, May 18, 2009

Her Voice Is Stuck in My Head Again

While knitting on an airplane recently, I listened to Eilen Jewell's album, Letters from Sinners and Strangers. Before I knew it I finished my hat and the album was over, but I was still tapping my foot to her slinky bluesy rhythms. Her music sits nicely as a jazz/country/folk combination, as a younger and edgier, hip-swaying version of Nanci Griffith or Erin McKeown. They say Ms. Jewell is Boston-based and I'll have you know that there's nothing sexier than Yankees singin' country music. There is something, however, very unbeatably clean and too even (I'm thinking of Laura Cantrell as well), as though this type of country music--the cityish, the educated, the liberal and secular country music--is missing humidity. There's no fire under the ass damnation to fear or too many babies and dogs, but there's a lovely and sinister tone that's not afeared of a little ass wagging and bass slapping either. 

Yankee country music, especially the kind of Eilen Jewell's, harkens back to old country music without the old way of thinking. In her song, "Dusty Boxcar Wall," she won me over with a train song that is now my favorite lady written train song. Train songs have their own history of train-like harmonica, of Casey Jones and train car onomatopoeia, and skipping-town, wife-and-kids abandonment. Eilen Jewell expertly takes from this (you can't write no train song without ever hearing one) then adds the pepper when she says, "I'm gonna write you a letter on this dusty boxcar wall." This is the first lady train song that clearly says she's going to hop a train before her lover and her lover will know where she's been after she's gone. Ouch. Almost like tattooing your name on the woman you think your man will sleep with next. 

While listening to her this morning, I wondered if David Lynch knew about her guitar licks, if they were going to show up during a driving scene in his next film. She has a new album coming out and is just about touring everywhere except NYC, so let me know how she does when she comes your way.


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