Boston's Eilen Jewell (pronounced EE-lin) has just released Boundary County, a stunning collection of thirteen original songs about trying to get along in a world gone wrong. On her first full-length studio album, Ms. Jewell draws from a wide range of inspirations including Howlin' Wolf, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Bob Dylan.
Unwilling to rely on her golden voice alone, Ms. Jewell is also an accomplished guitar player and songwriter. Never content to stand still geographically or artistically, she has been part of the music scenes in Boise, Santa Fe, Venice Beach, the Berkshires, and now Boston, where the Herald referred to her as an Americana gem. Probably because of her geographic wanderings, her overall sound is distinctive but not easy to pin down. In the music world, you are Blues or Folk or Country mostly because someone says you are. Eilen Jewell is both all and none of these at the same time. New artists are also described in sounds-like terms which can be more of a curse than a blessing. (All new Bob Dylans please form a line on the left and around the block.) Though any of the Boundary County songs would fit just right on playlists that include singers from Gillian Welch to Memphis Minnie to Lucinda Williams to Neil Young, as far as who she sounds like, suffice it to say that Eilen Jewell is the kind of artist people will cite in the not-too-distant future to help define how others sound.
No stranger to adversity, Ms. Jewell lost the previous album she recorded, a collection of covers and originals, when the studio burned down and the masters were destroyed. Boundary County, rather than being an attempted resurrection of the previous effort, heads confidently in new directions, whether its the barroom stomp of "Mess Around," the rock-steady "Back to Dallas," the beautiful dirge "Till You Lay Down Your Heavy Load," the Masters of War-like "The Flood," the Harvest whine of "Boundary County," the tent-meeting shuffle of "Gotta Get Right," the cowboy blues of "Fourth Degree," or the highway blues of "Blow It All Away." Her first-rate backing band on this recording made at Chris Rival's Middleville Studio includes drummer Jason Beek, also of Whoa! Man! Jesus!, fiddler Daniel Kellar and upright bass player Johnny Sciascia, both former Tarbox Ramblers, dobro/lap steel legend Jerry Miller of The Spurs, and Greg Glassman of Tastes Like Gravy String Band on banjo.