For fans of: Tift Merritt, Gillian Welch, The Be Good Tanyas
July 12th FREE SHOW
Opening Act: 7pm
Eilen Jewell laughs when told her label’s president called her a musicologist. But she confirms she and her husband and bandmate, drummer Jason Beek, have a passion for studying American music.
“We really love to uncover the past. It’s almost like digging for buried treasure,” she says. “For me, that’s where music is at. I like all kinds of music as long as there’s the word ‘early’ in front of it.” For her new album, Down Hearted Blues, released in 2017 on Signature Sounds, she and Beek unearthed 12 vintage gems written or made famous by an array of artists both renowned and obscure, from Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie to Charles Sheffield and Betty James. Then, like expert stonecutters, they chiseled them into exciting new shapes and forms, honoring history while breathing new life into each discovery.
Known for what allmusic.com describes as a “country-flavored and blues-infused version of contemporary folk (which also can include healthy doses of rockabilly and surf),” Jewell’s discography includes several albums of original material and one of Loretta Lynn covers.
“I’m always drawn toward anything that women accomplish in the musical world, especially of previous eras,” Jewell says. “It was amazing that women could do anything back then, when it was so frowned upon.”
Jewell, who also plays guitar and Hammond organ on these tracks, claims she’d be happy singing nothing but Big Maybelle songs — if they weren’t such a heavy vocal workout. On the propulsive “Don’t Leave Poor Me” she practically dares her voice to leap up high and swoop down low before stepping aside for the pulsating guitar-and-percussion bridge.
Her easy glide from note to note on the back-porch picker “Nothing in Rambling” contrasts with that style — and with lyrics expressing the difficulties of life on the road (a life that now includes daughter Mavis, already a world traveler at age 3) — further highlighting the smooth/raw dichotomy inherent not only to this album, but the genre itself.
While Jewell doesn’t exhibit whiskey-scratched vocal tendencies, she can certainly make a gutbucket lose some splinters — or beguile with silky sexiness. It’s as if she’s doing a one-woman play, slipping into a different persona with each song — a feat that becomes even more impressive when she reveals these tracks were recorded in only two days, live, and that Miller and upright bass player Shawn Supra hadn’t even heard some of them beforehand. That’s how spontaneous it actually was. They just happened to book some studio time during a free day in Boise, and had so much fun playing these songs they decided to make an album.