When Bob Dylan released his controversial 1970 album, Self Portrait, writer Greil Marcus griped that he'd "buy an album of Dylan breathing heavily but not an album of Dylan breathing softly." Americana fans may have been similarly piqued upon the release of Eilen Jewell's 2009 album, Sea of Tears. While the Boston-based singer's first two releases included stunning folk and country numbers, Sea saw her attempting to play gasp! rock 'n' roll. Not that anyone would mistake Jewell (whose first name is pronounced "Ee-lan") and her coconspirators for Metallica. This disc harks back to the early days of rock, when Screamin' Jay Hawkins put a spell on listeners and the Standells proved that good guys don't always wear white. We're talking more tasty licks and spooky organ than blown-out speakers, as her band tackles British Invasion numbers popularized by Them ("I'm Gonna Dress in Black") and the Who ("Shakin' All Over"). While still containing Jewell's angsty lyrics, her current originals feature a new-found vocal slinkiness, as well as duck-walking dollops of swampy guitar, courtesy of longtime axeman Jerry Miller. And in case listeners were worried she'd cast away all country influence, she delivers a ripping version of Loretta Lynn's "The Darkest Day," a song she heard in person when she opened for the iconic singer in 2007. Live, the band walks the line (Johnny Cash pun intended) between her soft country crooning and her brazen rock growl. Something for everyone, even Greil Marcus.
Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside open.
Thu., June 17, 9 p.m., 2010