If you don’t know who Eilen Jewell is by now then you’re certainly missing out! I had the honour to see her perform at the Bush Hall on the 5th of April as a part of her world tour and it is an experience I wont forget in a hurry. Not only is her music outstanding, she has awesome musicians for her band who are Jason Beek (Drummer) Johnny Sciascia (Upright Bassist) and Jerry Miller (Guitar), she engages intently with her audience and had some sound advice for me when I spoke to her after the show.
Eilen possesses the ability to write songs in so many different styles but encompass a sound that manifest itself to become identifiable as ‘that Elien Jewell sound’. Think honky-tonk waltz’s, country folk and surf back sounds with blues, Jazz and garage, combine it with her effortless and understated vocals and it is a ambrosial recipe of sounds!
So it kicked off at about 8.20 with a half full venue, the majority of the audience were over 35 years of age id say. My friend and I were certainly two of the youngest there and I wasn’t the only person to notice the age difference as most people I spoke to said how nice it was to see younger people enjoying this music. I guess this might not be of importance to some people but at uni I had audience and society theories drilled into me and now when I go to a gig I cant help myself but to look around and check out what’s going on and what connects the people and the kind of music they have come to see, it’s almost become a bit of a hobby. Some of the most interesting things I observed included two old friends re-uniting at a gig they had both been really looking forward too (Isn’t it lovely that music has the ability to bring folk together). I met a happy but slightly rude man with no teeth, saw lots of couples and a sixty something year old man bought to tears by Eilen’s gorgeous delivery of Santa Fe.
Although familiar with Eilen’s music this was my first time seeing her live and so I had no idea what to expect, she really struck a great balance of talking between playing. Sometimes it can be a bit annoying and feel a little self indulgent but this wasn’t the case at all with Eilen. She told us lovely little stories behind her inspirations and funny stories with friendly warnings about cupid which made the live experience of her music magical and the show that bit more personal. She had a great respect for musicians past and present giving praise and recognition to the likes of Arthur Alexander, Billy Holiday, her guitarist Jerry Miller, who was selling his then unreleased album ‘New road under my wheels’ on the road before it was even available as pre-release in the States and country and blues influenced gospel outfit ‘The Sacred Shakers’ of which Eilen belongs to. Eilen’s set not only proved that she is a great singer-songwriter and musician but that she also has a passion for great music alike and gives due credit to her inspirations whether comes from other musicians or even architecture.
During the interval I went and purchased Eilen’s latest album ‘Queen of the minor key’ on vinyl from the merchandise stand where my friend and I met a very pleasant young man Ed, who was very polite and forthcoming when asked if he was enjoying the tour. I really wanted Ed to answer ‘yes’ to my next question which was ‘Are you related to the band?’ and he did, he was Was Eilen’s baby brother. This was perfect. Not only was this tour not at all corporate or at least it didn’t feel it, I knew Del from independent Ark PR was helping with the PR for the UK leg of the tour and here I learnt that Eilen’s baby brother came along for the ride too to help sell merch. Most things need a little financial investment but it just goes to show that when lots of like minded friends and family pool resources with great organisation and fans across the world, its possible to do a world tour with the best kind of investment and without massive corporate PR campaigns. I think this speaks Volumes for Eilen’s talent and lovable persona. If something is great people want to help make it better for everyone else to enjoy!
By the start of the second half the venue was full. We were treated to a delightful version of Billy Holiday’s ‘Fine and Mellow’ and the story behind her song ‘Home To Me,’ the song inspired by architecture I mentioned earlier. I feel reluctant to go in to to much detail because like I said Eilen’s intermittent ramblings were what added such magic to an enjoyable evening, but the idea behind this song was from a popular romantic myth surrounding the railed rooftop platforms commonly found in New England know as a ‘Widows Walk’.
At the end of the show I met Eilen and Johnny who were both very lovely. I asked Eilen what age was she when she wrote her first song to which she replied “I wrote my first songs when I was about 6 but they didn’t really count cos they were about the Easter bunny and Santa clause. It wasn’t until I was in my early to mid twenties that I wrote something that I actually wanted people to hear. Sometimes it can take a while to really figure out your noise” I did get slightly overwhelmed when talking to Eilen and tried but fluffed my words and failed to articulate well what I wanted to say, which was, working in the commercial music industry has really given me an insight to a lot of things (good and bad) as well as re-affirm my love for all things roots but as a roots musician it has somehow left me a little jaded and it’s people like Eilen and the wonderful team of people who surround her who give me faith to carry on playing and writing. Knowing that there are people like them about, that and a fantastic audience means I can relax a little and take my time to figure out my musical plans. Nothing good ever came from rushing!
On that note I will wrap up by thanking Eilen and her wonderful band and everyone who is involved in the world tour. For me it was more that simply going to a gig, It was a beautiful and honest experience with a real insight into the world of Eilen Jewell on the road. I’m sure it was and will be the same for everyone who has and is yet to see a show. Thanks for sharing with us, and the very best wishes for the rest of the tour.