That Eilen Jewell’s back catalogue contains a tribute to Loretta Lynn should give you an idea of just where this formerly Boston based singer-songwriter’s roots are planted. On her latest album, Sundown Over Ghost Town, that country vibe is clearly evident on the opening cut of, Worried Mind, the jogging, pedal steel enrobed one horse town tale Needle & Thread, a twanged up Pages (guitar, as ever, courtesy of Jerry Miller) and the delicately lovely acoustic new motherhood closer, Songbird.
But if those are the roots, her branches extend much further. Hallelujah Band is surf western noir, My Hometown lights a torch under the smouldering blues of legends like Billie Holiday (though her voice is lighter), the organ-backed Down The Road is blues of a muddier persuasion and Rio Grande all mariachi border rockabilly dramatics. Particularly striking is the sultry Here With Me, redolent of late night trysts in a David Lynch theme-bar.
Much of the album was inspired by and written in Idaho City, a mostly abandoned former mining centre to the north of her hometown of Boise, where she now lives, and provides the album’s reflective tone and lyrical threads, powerfully so on Green Hills’ picture of corporate environmental devastation, the superb Half-Broke Horse (where a half tame/half wild horse on her dad’s land provides an analogy for the people who live there) and lines like “home is a needle and thread for the hole in the lifeboat they put you in”.
It’s a more reflective, musically subdued work than some of her past outings, but it may well be her best yet.
Review by: Mike Davies
Out Now via Signature Sounds
Order via Amazon