Album Reviews

Eilen Jewell

Down Hearted Blues

Artist:     Eilen Jewell

Album:     Down Hearted Blues

Label:     Signature Sounds

Release Date:     09/22/2017

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Eilen Jewell ain’t your usual blueswoman, with a gritty past and a voice to match. Pretty, blond-ish and young, Jewell’s vocals could deliver Barbra Streisand’s catalogue in a posh cabaret and do it justice, but Jewell doesn’t take the obvious route—even in putting together an interesting blues album, where she’s chosen blues non-standards.

Jewell’s entire Down Hearted Blues CD—including the title tune—sounds more upbeat than most of the lyrics would suggest. Jewell has chosen some deep-cut tunes to re-invent in her own image, from Willie Dixon’s “Crazy Mixed Up World,” and Memphis Minnie’s “Nothing in Rambling,” to Big Maybelle’s “Don’t Leave Poor Me,” and the daring move transforms their music from downer to accessible. Who says blues has to make us wring our hands?

In addition to vocals, Jewell also plays guitar and Hammond organ; rounding out the band, we notably find her husband and bandmate, drummer Jason Beek, the versatile guitarist Jerry Miller contributing head-turning licks and, guesting, fellow Boise, Idahoan Curtis Stigers, who contributed the effective horn sections.

“Another Night To Cry” features some standout guitar work and one of the bluesiest-sounding numbers on the disc, while the uptempo “You’ll Be Mine” has a rockabilly feel that creeps into this album from time to time, with sexy little piano riffs filling in the blanks.

Jewell has effectively explored outlier ground here, like a farmer finding surviving specimens on the edges of his fields and bringing a whole new crop back to life—mutated, but alive and stronger than ever.

—Suzy Nelson

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