Previously I had one album in my possession, 'Letters From Sinners & Strangers' from 2007. Since this year her blues tribute album, 'Down Hearted Blues' joined it in my discography. Despite the extremely traditional approach to the album, I found I liked it and decided to go out and have listen.
Eilen Jewell performs as a combo, with husband Jason Beek on drums and washboard, Jerry Miller on guitar and stand up bass player Shawn Supra. This standard line up could lead to a uniformity in sound. Despite this being the case I found it to be broken each and every time by the diverse choice of songs in the set and by Eilen playing a harmonica in a few songs. A record provides more options and she uses them there.
On stage there seemed a permanent fight going on between Eilen Jewell and her microphone. In the audience we had a perfect sound. The balance between vocals and band were excellent. Everything could be heard, understood and enjoyed.
Every other song I found myself impressed by the tightness of the playing, the melodic prowess laid into the songs and by guitarist Jerry Miller who kept searching for the very edge of where he could take notes in his solos. Daring them to tip over just before pulling things back in. "The worst that can happen, is that I have to slide my finger a half note up or downwards", he told me afterwards. Also with little references to famous solos here and there in a few notes starting a solo e.g. The lady up front led the band through it all with her fine voice. There wasn't much doubt who is the star on stage.
With a solo performance called 'Song Bird' about her little daughter, a song the little girl genuinely dislikes we were told, the encore was started, before it all ended with the song we were promised at the start of the show: 'Voodoo Working', the opening song of 'Down Hearted Blues'. A song in one chord that still is so interesting to listen to.