Eilen Jewell

Butcher Holler: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn

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There was never any disputing the strong country influence Eilen Jewell brought to her retro-pop-folk, so it's no surprise that she detours into this short but extremely sweet tribute to one of her obvious influences, Loretta Lynn. It's a natural side road, especially since Jewell's sumptuous voice is similar to Lynn's, as is her delivery. Jewell already recorded Lynn's "The Darkest Day" on her previous album, but the dozen selections here are not the coal miner's daughter's best-known tunes, despite the obvious resemblance of the cover art to 1968's iconic Loretta Lynn's Greatest Hits. Rather, the tracks are carefully chosen to reflect only Lynn's original compositions that highlight her often defiant, genre-expanding lyrics and diverse topics, which range from offbeat gospel ("Who Says God Is Dead") to brazen infidelity ("Another Man Loved Me Last Night.") Things get off to a punchy start with "Fist City," an ultimatum to a trashy woman Lynn threatens to take to the titular town if she dares come near her man. The same goes for the similar theme behind "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man." She pushes back an overly amorous man on "You Want to Give Me a Lift" ("...I'm a little bit warm but that don't mean I'm on fire") and steers her man away from a floozy on "Deep as Your Pocket." But whether she's praising the Lord or warning her husband that he better not come home a drinkin' with loving on his mind, Jewell's natural, honeyed voice perfectly frames these story songs with nonchalant sass. Her relaxed vocal effortlessly expresses the songs' varied emotions, and she sounds like she has been singing these tunes all of her life. Her snappy three-piece band strips some of the dated production goop off the originals while keeping the sound basic yet full and sprightly. Jerry Miller's guitar and especially his pedal steel work are particularly impressive with retro lines that never sound stale or dated. His solos dance around Jewell's voice, making even tracks with melancholy lyrics such as "Honky Tonk Girl" sparkling and fizzy. Jewell's easy rolling voice also references Patsy Cline in its timbre, which brings extra warmth to these tunes. The set wraps up way too soon with a track that should have opened it, a lively, unaffected version of "You're Lookin' at Country." Indeed we are.

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