Grand Ole Echo with Eilen Jewell

Grand Ole Echo


Eilen Jewell

It is the battered cassette jammed in the tape deck of the getaway car, the music Ida Lupino cues up on the roadhouse jukebox as she counts the till after close. This is Queen of the Minor Key by Eilen Jewell, a smart cookie with a heart of burnished gold and enough stories to keep even the rowdiest crowd hanging on her every word. Though its long shadows and dark corners make her kingdom feel intimate, her sovereign domain stretches as far as the imagination. Its denizens seek refuge in padded rooms, abandoned automobiles… and strong spirits. They defend their territory by any means necessary: weird voodoo, sawed-off shotguns, broken bottles.

But beware, savvy observer. There is more to Eilen Jewell than meets the ear. Do not confuse the singer and her songs. The drama and darkness that give Queen of the Minor Key its gritty texture are in short supply in the Boston-based songwriter's personal life. And in a curious twist, these fourteen originals actually took shape in a sunny, idyllic location that contrasts strikingly with the album's moody, film noir atmosphere.

In August 2010, Jewell headed to a tiny cabin in the mountains of Idaho. Although her clan hails from the Gem State, this was no comfy retreat at the family fold. Her temporary abode had no running water or electricity, and sat at the end of a winding dirt road. Wild elk would graze in the surrounding meadows while she worked. When it was time to unwind, she availed herself of a nearby hot springs. A dilapidated truck she found on the property even made its way into the album artwork.

She had no set game plan, and her sole objective for the new material was refreshingly modest (or incredibly daunting, depending on your point of view). "My goal as a songwriter is to always improve," she demurs. "Every time I make a record, I want it to be even more real, more heartfelt, than the one before it. I want the slow songs to be slower and the fast songs to be faster." Drawing on a connoisseur's love of roots music and a writer's eye for detail, Jewell fashions her musical vignettes with impressive economy. Each turn of phrase and chord change is executed with an élan that belies the measured precision behind it.

Jewell is wary of repeating previous success by following formulae. "But I also don't want to change things just for the sake of changing them," she adds. Never underestimate the public's ability to recognize calculation masquerading as inspiration. "You always want to ride the creative process to new territory, without being overwhelmingly novel."

Towards that end, she experimented with dark humor in the new material. The title tune takes inspiration from a poke someone made about her harmonic preferences. "I decided to run with that and adopt the moniker, even if it started off as a nickname that wasn't necessarily intended to be flattering." "Bang Bang Bang" eschews the cliché of Cupid as a rosy-cheeked cherub ("he's more reckless and violent than that"), and replaces his petite bow-and-arrow with a gun show six-gauge, plus a laughing disregard for such trivial concerns as aim.

Queen of the Minor Key is also the first Eilen Jewell album to feature a significant number of guest players, even as she continues to work in close consort with her longtime trio of drummer Jason Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller, and upright bassist Johnny Sciascia. Zoe Muth and Big Sandy (of Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys) both contribute vocals. "I was writing the songs with them in mind—if I could work up the courage to ask them—so I was really honored that they agreed to sing with me." Further augmenting the sound are Rich Dubois on fiddle, David Sholl on tenor and baritone saxophones, and Tom West on organ. The arrangements, Jewell insists, occurred organically as the music was fleshed out in the studio; the songs tell her where they want to go. "We don't really think it out that much."

Since her official 2006 debut, Boundary County, Jewell has surveyed a wide range of traditional musical styles, from the folk and jug band leanings of her early recordings, through an album-length homage to Loretta Lynn and the country gospel of her work with The Sacred Shakers, right up to 2009's Sea of Tears, which bristled with the electricity of '60s UK garage rock and Chicago blues. Queen of the Minor Key draws on everything from classic country (the fiddle-driven "Reckless") to early R&B (the shuffling "Hooked"), with an emphasis on sounds from the seamier side of the tracks. With dirty sax riffs and low-slung guitars, the instrumentals that bookend the album—"Radio City" and "Kalimotxo"—evoke the bump-and-grind exotica of vintage Southern California suburban saloons. Yet on the flipside, Jewell imbues slow, jazzy numbers like "I Remember You" and "Only One" with torch and tenacity that linger long past last call.

Eilen Jewell is the Queen of the Minor Key. Sad songs are her wealth and finery. Lend her your ears, and you will quickly hear why her humble subjects admire and adore her more with each passing year.

Jeremiah & The Red Eyes

Los Angeles based artist Jeremiah (Sammartano) and the Red Eyes started in the Southern California coffeehouses and bars, picking up sounds and ideas along the way and later mixed them up with the song ideas in his head. What came out was a blend of the Delta blues and old folk songs, Tom Waits and the Replacements, some Willie Nelson twang and some good old garage rock and roll - and a whole lot of other things - Delta blues and twangy grooves, one reporter called it.
2004 saw the release of Red Eyed and Restless on Bull Stud Records which had songs played on various U.S. stations including the syndicated show, "Altville", and Chris Morris' Watusi Rodeo on Indie 103.1 in LA, and across Europe. Over the years they have been well supported by the Americana scene in Los Angeles and have shared the stage with Southern Culture On The Skids, Dead Rock West, and Mike Stinson - to name a few - and also David Olney and Tommy Womack in Nashville, where Jeremiah relocated for a spell in 2009.
in 2010 Jeremiah and the Red Eyes hit the road in support of a new CD, Under Your Spell, and covered a good 40k miles starting with LA and then onto Phoenix, Denver, Austin, St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, San Francisco, and various cities in between. Plans for a Spring 2011 tour are already under way.

New American Farmers

Mars, Arizona, like many other American towns, has vanished, forced to shut down it's community due to lack of funds. Some blame the economy, some blame the state of the music business. Like the American Farmer, it just became too expensive to run the family business any longer and the town was auctioned off to an unnamed entity. This led to relocation and name change for the band known as Mars Arizona. Thus, "New American Farmers" was born. Like their namesakes, the Duo will have to learn how to survive by embracing new sustainable approaches to music production and delivery. They hope to renew Spirits, enhance environmental stewardship and improve the lives of their families as well as their community. No more cross country tours in gas guzzling vehicles or airplanes. New approaches to fan outreach will have to be developed. Stay tuned for a new chapter in the musical history of Nicole Storto and Winston Smith.

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