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Eilen Jewell

Gypsy – 2019 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Eilen Jewell

Eilen Jewell's "Gypsy" opens with the ominous, mysterious "Beat the Drum," which is a swampy - and yes, gypsy - song of warning about some impending doom or other. It plays out like a softer type of vintage Creedence Clearwater Revival song. It's also likely political in nature, especially when Jewell repeats the line, "I believe in the dream." Only with album closer "79 Cents (The Meow Song)" does Jewell become expressly political while describing the wage gap between males and females.

"Crawl" is even more CCR-y, although John Fogerty and bandmates weren't known to incorporate fiddle, as does this song. Jewell is at her country-ist in two places. First, with "These Blues," which is a gently honky-tonking song that explores brokenhearted-ness. "You Cared Enough to Lie" also has a stripped-down Hank Williams feel with just a touch of western swing.

The first half of this 12-song collection leans toward Jewell's meditative and slightly lyrically vague side, singing cryptically about fear and hard times, whereas the second half is far more straightforward and linear. The title track is lovely ode to freedom, featuring Jewell's light-as-air vocal and colored by sweet mandolin. For most of us, a gypsy-like life is but a dream. It's a dream, though, we'll likely take with us to our graves.

With "Hard Times," Jewell somewhat expands upon Stephen Foster's popular Civil War anthem, "Hard Times Come Again No More." She sings about not wanting to be broke, sick or lonely anymore. Over a thumping, sparse groove, Jewell expounds upon how hard times can take multiple forms. We all have hard times of some kind or other.

When reading between the lines, it's obvious Jewell is distressed and disgusted with the politics of modern America. Singing about these hard times is one good cathartic way face such troubles, though.