We've seen Eilen Jewell a million times, but couldn't resist seeing her again at Sinclair in Cambridge on Saturday, 10/15. We bought a parking space in a garage a few blocks away, with the tickets, and that was a good deal, though the garage had no pedestrian exits or entrances.
While I'm complaining, let me get it over with about Sinclair. It's too precious to be a real rock club and too open to be a real folk club. They had their seats set up for Eilen, which means you have to look was up to see the stage and get a crick in the neck, and the seats are those kind of cheap things that make you feel like they're going to collapse the whole time, or that you're going to fall out the back. But their sound system is good and the beer was cold.
No opening act, Eilen and band came on not at all late at 7:00. This had been billed as "An Evening With Eilen Jewell" and I wondered if that meant that she'd be solo or with alternating players. But no, she had her usual 4-piece band: her, husband Jason Beek of course, and Jerry Miller, who's a phenom, as well as Shawn Supra on bass.
We had a great time and I loved her setlist, though I had criticisms. The last few times I've seen her I was very impressed with her guitar work and this was no exception. Her voice was great at Sinclair as well, milking that plain-spun honey in an authentic country style, while her band plays cracker-jack rock and roll behind her. And her songs are so excellent. She did some of her best, like Sea of Tears, High Shelf Booze, Rain Roll In, and Rio Grande.
Criticisms were that as great as Jerry is, he seemed a little tired of playing this music. Some of his leads were really good, but on others he was trying way too hard to do something different and ended up leaving us scratching our heads. Shawn just isn't as dynamic and down-and-dirty as Eilen's long-time bassist Johnny Sciascia was, and it was hard not to miss him. And Eilen did no new, self-penned songs.
She covered a wide range of tunes from throughout her career, including four from her first record and one from her Loretta Lynn record (Deep As Your Pocket), and three from her latest record. She also did three from her current project, covers of 30s blues songs such as Memphis Minnie's Nothing In Rambling and a Big Maybelle (Don't Leave Poor Me) and an Otis Rush song (You Know My Love). They ripped through these songs fast, with no nonsense: verses, Jerry lead, and then one last chorus and done.
She also did a cover of Johnny Cash's Train Of Love that I'll remember for a long time, "Every so often everybody's baby gets the urge to roam" ... perfect for her style. And she did her cover of Anderson's Dusty Boxcar Wall. But I would have loved to hear new, Eilen Jewell stuff, and I felt a little disappointed about hearing none.
I was also a little disappointed to not hear her solo for once. Every time I've seen her she's done the 4-piece thing, and I wouldn't mind hearing her tackle some of her excellent stuff without a safety net.
It wasn't a very long show, one pretty hefty set. And then she came out quickly to cover Songbird from her latest record, which is a tribute to her daughter, Mavis ("Mavis" is an old English name for "song thrush"), who was bopping around the club and distracting her Mom. There's a very cute picture of Mavis playing her Dad's drums on Eilen's FB page.
I complain, but we had a great time and loved seeing her again. Come back soon Eilen! She talked several times about how much she missed Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, and how she had thrilled to Big Papi's last season. It was a family reunion and though one may complain about one's relatives, there's still a great amount of love and appreciation there.