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Eilen Jewell

Queen of the Minor Key – 2011 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Eilen Jewell

On Eilen Jewell's "Queen of the Minor Key," her fourth album of original material, the Idaho-born/Boston-based singer/songwriter pushes her sound beyond the country/folk parameters she established for herself on her previous 3 (2005's "Boundary County," 2007's excellent "Letters from Sinners & Strangers" and 2009's "Sea of Tears").

Bookended by the surf/spy thematics of opening instrumental Radio City and propulsive bikini beach closer Kalimotxo, "Queen of the Minor Key" finds Jewell expanding and refining her creative vision, from the slinky and seductive jazz folk of I Remember You to the mournful country sway of Santa Fe to the '50s horror movie tiki bar shimmy and twang of the slightly dangerous Warning Signs to the uncharacteristic smirk and bounce of Bang Bang Bang.

The CD marks the first time that Jewell has featured outside vocalists, and she's instituted that policy with a captivating rookie and a bona fide ringer. The slowburn country weeper Over Again offers gorgeous counterpart harmonies from Zoe Muth, whose career was kick started by Jewell. Jewell and Muth work together like raw honey and homemade whiskey, and Over Again is evidence that this shouldn't be a one-shot collaboration. Equally impressive is Jewell's duet with Rockabilly Hall of Famer Big Sandy, who adds his distinctive croon to the Patsy Cline western swing of Long Road.

If there's a message on "Queen of the Minor Key," it may well be that Eilen Jewell is ready to go in any direction, and maybe every direction and make them all work for her.