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Eilen Jewell (from the album Get Behind The Wheel available on Signature Sounds) (by Lee Zimmerman)
Eilen Jewell is nothing if not the epitome of an Americana auteur. She fits in the same category as Roseanne Cash, Carlene Carter, and Lucinda Williams, with whom she shares a particularly distinctive sound. Like those others, she has a way of conveying a personal perspective that’s unabashedly honest, even when resorting to more candid confession.
Never has that been clearer than on her excellent new album Get Behind the Wheel, a set of songs that find her detailing the distress and disappointment that threatened to put an end to her career. Given those difficulties, and the fact that she’s both a parent and a working artist, it’s no small accomplishment that she’s managed to make one of the best albums of her entire career. It’s fueled by earnest intent, and yet never falls prey to self-pity or sanctimonious assertions. Rather, it’s determined and decisive, an arresting effort that spares no effort in terms of exercising her emotions.
Given her previous reputation as a somewhat sensitive singer/songwriter, the bold approach taken here may seem somewhat disarming at first. Yet the allure and attraction are still thoroughly embossed in each of these offerings. ‘I feel so alive’ she declares eagerly and emphatically on the surging opening track, aptly titled “Alive”. So too, the pronounced beat and shimmery steel guitar of “Crooked River” serve as a statement of redemption and renewal. On the other hand, “Lethal Love” comes across like a fidgety tango, a reflection of the uncertainty that befell her once before. For its part, “Silver Wheels and Wings” plays as nothing less than a final farewell, even as the distinct drift of the concluding track, “The Bitter End” seems to sums her situation up succinctly.
Co-producer and multi-instrumentalist Will Kimbrough deserves a certain share of the credit for guiding the proceedings and overseeing the agile arrangements. So too, drummer Jason Beer, pedal steel player Fats Kaplan, bassist Matt Murphy, and guitarist Jerry Miller add their supple touches throughout. The result is an astute example of assured Americana albeit with an occasional elaborate flourish, a sound that’s both dramatic and defiant. The smooth groove “Come Home Soon” is an ideal example, an indication of the longing and desire that typifies this effort overall. The sweeping steel guitar of the lovely “Winnemucca”, the Bluesy sway of “Outsiders”, the decisive drive of “Could You Would You”, the slow saunter of “You Were a Friend of Mine”, and the sultry sound of “Breakaway” further affirm the multi-tiered and decidedly disparate feelings.
Ultimately, Eilen Jewell has realized her most emphatic offering yet, one that deserves to elevate her to the highest pantheons of today’s most well-tempered singer/songwriters. Get Behind the Wheel finds her at full throttle, revved up and fully fueled for the long haul. (by Lee Zimmerman)
Listen and buy the music of Eilen Jewell from AMAZON
For more information, please visit the Eilen Jewell website
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