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Jenny Lewis forges ahead

House of Blues, Boston, June 10, 2009

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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The music world is littered with artists who have attempted to go beyond the confines of their regular night-time gig to forge their own career. Jenny Lewis has done the same with Rilo Kiley. In her case, Lewis has no reason to bemoan her fate.

She gained much acclaim with "Rabbit Fur Coat," her CD recorded with the Watson Twins. She returned a few months ago (sans the Watsons) with "Acid Tongue," another good batch of music.

Lewis was an unassuming front woman in concert, generally on the lower-key side, but sufficiently engaging and certainly enjoying the moment. Her biggest assets were her voice and the quality of the songs. Both ranked very high. Lewis, a one-time child actress, owns a big sounding, clarion voice that stood out above the music almost the entire night. Her vocals were evocative and sound pretty.

As for the songs, they were of high quality with Lewis playing a chunk of her last two albums plus Silver Lining from Rilo Kiley as the first encore song. Lewis opted for a country/rootsy bent from the start, although the sound rocked a bit more as the show wore on. But no matter what the style, Lewis wore it well.

She also was aided by a strong backing band, including boyfriend Johnathan Rice on acoustic guitar and vocals. He took a turn on lead on MI>The Next Messiah from "Acid Tongue" and was very comfortable playing such a large role as well (not a surprise, given he has had his own career to push as well). Farmer Dave, who opened the evening, was particularly effective on lap steel, adding a country bent. The drumming by Barbara Gruska was solid, with a high point being at the very close of the night on Born Secular with Danielle Haim, who played a variety of instruments, and Gruska pounding away on drums while the others left the stage.

With or without Rilo Kiley, Lewis is an artist of high merit.

Deer Tick, a quartet from Providence, R.I., has seen their status on the upswing as well with their most recent album, "Born on Flag Day" just out. They are clearly in the alt.-country vein. Lead singer John Joseph McCauley III displayed a bit of a rough voice during the 50-minute set, but the vocals meshed with the music.

He has an easy-going stage demeanor, humorous and confident without taking himself too seriously.

While not necessarily blazing new musical trails, Deer Tick proved worthy of the acclaim they are receiving.