Eilen Jewell

Queen of the Minor Key

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Eilen Jewell's music lives in a middle ground between vintage country and the blues, and her plain-spoken but artful songs serve as an apt reminder that there's more the two styles share than there is that keeps them apart. Jewell's sixth album, 2011's Queen of the Minor Key, is her first release since her tribute to the songs of Loretta Lynn, Butcher Holler, and while Jewell wrote all 14 songs on this set, one might guess she was thinking Patsy Cline during these sessions after previously contemplating Cline's friend Loretta. There's a darker, late-night feel to this music than on most of Jewell's previous material, and though there are also a handful of uptempo numbers on board, the songs on Queen of the Minor Key are more than suitable accompaniment for late-night cocktails, a cigarette with a clandestine lover, or other walks after midnight. Jewell clearly knows her way around a torch song ("Only One"), she's picked up a few lessons about love ("Bang Bang Bang") and she can say farewell to a lover as she answers the call of the highway as well as anyone ("Long Road").Her vocal style is carefully nuanced and all the more effective for her subtle approach, while her band -- Jerry Miller on guitars, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass, and Jason Beek on drums -- is marvelous, calling up variations on the honky tonk sound as each number requires and sounding masterful on them all. In an era when bluster and overkill are the order of the day in both country and blues, Queen of the Minor Key is a reminder that this music at its best speaks to the wayward impulses of the human heart, and Eilen Jewell embodies that quiet, insistent voice as well as anyone making music in the 21st century.

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