ALBUMS OF THE MONTH:
Queen of the Minor Key, by Eilen Jewell
It is perhaps fitting that Dave Alvin and Eilen Jewell have just released new albums. Both are flagbearers of American roots music, adept at a wide array of styles but imbuing everything that they do with integrity and authenticity.
Jewell is often compares to Loretta Lynn (a comparison that Jewell further fueled with a tribute album last year), although the description doesn’t do her justice. Whether sashaying through the simmering groove of “Radio City” or the country boogie of the title track or the sultry torch song “Only One,” Jewell breathes her own lifeblood into every song.
Jewell’s voice — sometimes sultry, sometimes edgy – frames the album. Whether sashaying through the simmering groove of “Radio City” or the country boogie of the title track or the sultry torch song “Only One,” Jewell breathes her own lifeblood into every song.
Equally impressive is the range of her songwriting. The winsome “Santa Fe” finds her yearning for a lost lover, “And I’d give the world if it were mine, to let these memories slip my mind, and wake up next to you one more time.” A voodoo spirit imbues “Warning Signs” and “Bang Bang Bang,” her tale of Cupid’s carelessness (“He don’t take aim he just bang bang bang.”).
Jewell’s secret weapon is her crack band, drummer Jason Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller, and upright bassist Johnny Sciascia. They are her perfect foils, complimenting her with their smartly nuanced performances.
Anybody searching for the true contemporary soul of country should look no further than Queen of the Minor Key.
Audio Stream: Eilen Jewell, “Warning Signs”
Accidental Thief, by Matt the Electrician
There are two sides to Matt Sewer, aka Matt the Electrician. There is the dry-witted entertainer who can amuse with his covers of Rick Springfield’s “Jesse’s Girl” and Journey’s “Faithfully.” Then there is the gifted folk songwriter who marries melancholy melodies with thoughtful and compassionate lyrics. Matt’s latest release relies heavily on the latter, showcasing the depth of his songwriting talent.
The title track finds Sewer reflecting on the heart that he stole but did not keep. “I don’t remember stealing but I do it all the time, I took your heart and kept it next to mine…. I didn’t mean to hurt you and waste all of our time, I am an accidental thief and these are accidental crimes.”
The simple conceit of “I Will Do the Breathing” is made all the more powerful when it builds to a group sing-along. “I will do the breathing until you are able to come up for air,” Sewer and the ensemble sing, “I will be the feathers on the wings of the bird that flies you wherever you need to go.”
From start to finish, this release breathes the gentle soul of the songwriter, never a bad thing.
Audio Stream: Matt the Electrician, “All I Know”
What’s Left of My Heart, Marc Carroll (from the One Little Indian release In Silence)
While the LA by way of Ireland singer-songwriter prepares a new release, his new label released a compilation culled from four earlier albums. This song oozes melancholy with chiming guitars guiding an alluring melody. Lyrics rich with imagery add a heartening quality, “Stars descend and assemble and circle around her / Echoes of thunderous rage gently surrounds her / And sadly I, all I can do is stand aside / And bless the day I found her.”
Audio Stream: Marc Carroll, “What’s Left of My Heart”
Watch Me Fall, John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff (from the Hands Up! Records release Leavin’ Yesterday)
It’s nearly impossible to hear John Howie Jr. sing and not break out into a grin. The former Two Dollar Pistol singer-songwriter has a rich rich baritone and southern drawl are perfectly suited for the twang-drenched songs that make up his latest release. Throw in some tasty electric and pedal steel guitars and you’ve got the perfect soundtrack for an afternoon on the back porch.
Audio Download: John Howie, Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff, “Watch Me Fall”
See You at the Bottom, Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! (from the self-released Hello!)
There is nothing more exciting than wandering into a random club and making a musical discovery. Such was the case last week when a friend and I wandered into New York’s Rockwood Music Hall and caught a high energy set by this local sextet. Singer Wil Farr fronts the band with an impressive intensity that is perfectly complimented by his counterpart Bridget Buscemi’s vibrant vocals. Add two guitars, a keyboard and a solid rhythm section and you’ve got songs that pack a powerful punch.
Audio Download: Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!, “See You at the Bottom”
See Part one of the June Playlist here.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.