Reviews

Eilen Jewell’s Gypsy


By Brian Rock

Queen of the minor key and shortlist candidate for Queen of Americana, Eilen Jewell releases her eighth album, Gypsy. After exploring her Blues influences in 2017’s cover compilation Down Hearted Blues, Jewell returns to her Country/Americana wheelhouse with an original collection of ballads and Honky-Tonk tunes about hardship, heartache, and occasionally, hope. Jewell’s Lucinda Williams meets Patsy Cline voice is direct and unassuming, yet intimate and moving. She makes you feel like she is singing each of these songs to you alone.

The title song, “Gypsy” encapsulates the tone and spirit of the album. Beginning with atmospheric acoustic and electric guitars augmented by delicate mandolin strains, Jewell sings, “Fly gypsy fly. You belong up in the sky. No chains. Born free. Child of the mystery. Don’t let me keep you down. Gypsy feet don’t have to touch the ground.” Whether she is addressing a friend, a lover, or her own wandering spirit is unclear; but her point is clear – we are all born free. We are free to pursue or own truths, or to believe our own lies. We are free to pursue our own bliss and suffer the consequences of our own mistakes. This song embraces the glittering promise and potential of our freedom.

But what happens when two gypsy souls want the freedom to go different ways? “These Blues” is Jewell’s Honky-Tonk answer to that question. She goes full Kitty Wells as she sings, “I don’t know what keeps me coming back, my love. All I know is I keep hanging on. Some fine day these blues are gonna leave me alone. But at least for now, they’ve made themselves at home.” Her cover of Pinto Bennett’s “You Cared Enough To Lie,” follows in the same sawdust scuffed dancefloor footsteps. “Miles to Go” and “Who Else But You,” give a more tender, intimate portrait of heartbreak, while “Hard Times” is a grittier assessment of troubled times in general.

Jewell gives us a possible clue to the cause of our heartaches in the Creedence Clearwater Rival inspired, “Crawl,” Singing, “I want solitude, don’t want to be alone. Want to put down roots, want to be a rolling stone;” she admits that sometimes our freedom to choose means choosing between two things that we want. And sometimes the things we want may be complete opposites. So how do we choose? Jewell answers that for us in the acoustic Country ballad, “Fear.” Addressing life’s contradictions, she sings, “Life’s a dream, life’s a nightmare… Love the beauty, love the struggle… Don’t take fear to be your guide.”

With that advice, Jewell leads us back full circle to the promise and potential of our freedom in the soulful, “Witness.” Singing, “See that sunset out the window, it’s there for the taking. Throw back your blinds. Open all your doors. Feel my love in your heart, it’s here for the making. You have only to know it, and it’s yours.”

So there it is: Love trumps fear. Her advice is simple, but true; and it’s delivered in poetic terms in minor key tones. For those with a wandering soul, Gypsy provides a good compass to find your way. It also provides some memorable music to enjoy along the journey.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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