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Jewell stands out in a crowd

Johnny D's, Somerville, Mass., November 6, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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A fan at Eilen Jewell's show said she recalled seeing the Idaho-born Boston-based singer a few years ago at the very same club on a Saturday night. It was during the World Series with the Red Sox playing, and Jewell drew a few dozen folks because Red Sox Nation did not show up.

Fast forward. Okay, there was no World Series, but on this Saturday night, the club was sold out in advance, welcoming Jewell back home after a month-long jaunt to England and Europe.

Now, it's not clear if more people are onto Jewell or what (she sold out the club twice in the past year), but regardless, from a musical standpoint, Jewell was a standout on this evening.

Jewell has a bit of a smoky voice, sometimes leaning towards the jazzy side in songs that cover country, jazz and rootsy sounds. She tends to hold notes for greater emphasis, wringing a tad more emotion out of the lyrics. Jewell also was a very strong stage presence - funny, engaging and explanatory throughout the 90 minutes.

Jewell also knew a thing or two about putting a set together. She went from Them's I'm Gonna Dress in Black from "Sea of Tears" (made sense because Jewell also wore a black cocktail dress) to Johnny Kidd and The Pirates' Shakin' All Over from the same disc. The latter featured a zillion licks from guitarist Jerry Miller.

Other standouts were Heartache Boulevard and Sweet Rose, one of several songs about one of Jewell's favorite topics - murder. ("I prefer songs about women murdering men," Jewell presumably joked). Jewell also changed it up with Travelin Shoes, from her gospel side project The Sacred Shakers with more emphasis on the vocals.

Besides being a charming focal point, Jewell certainly had a lot to be thankful for when it came to her backing band. Miller was simply a tour de force. He went steely, twangy, rockabilly and more. Miller, who also incorporated a chunk of tremolo sounds, was no show off, but it was no surprise that Jewell said, "They really like him in Sweden."

While Miller was the linchpin of Jewell's sound, the rhythm section was superb as well. Jewell has a real horse in the race in the form of drummer Jason Beek, since not only did he set the very steady beat using a variety of sticks, but he doubles as Jewell's husband. That fact figured in quite well on a winning version of Loretta Lynn's Fist City from her most recent CD "Eilen Jewell Presents Butcher Holler, a Tribute to Loretta Lynn." She warned the women in the crowd about messing with the drummer because otherwise "there's a place you go, and it's bad."

John Sciascia (Sha-sha) anchored upright bass. These guys added a tremendous amount to Jewell's sound.

A year may have made a big difference in the size of the crowd, but Jewell's talents were nothing new. Jewell remains immensely enjoyable.