Cosmic American Jamboree
Thursday, January 19, 2012 ● 12-2 pm
Atlantic Weekly, Part I
Saturday, January 21, 2012 ● 8-10 am
WTJU 91.1 FM/Streaming at wtju.net
Signature Sounds artist Eilen Jewell recently sat down for an interview with Lonesome George of The Cosmic American Jamboree, and we will be airing it in advance of her concert at the Mockingbird in Staunton on Saturday, January 21.
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.
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.