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Arts festival favorite back in BG for show PDF Print E-mail
Written by COLE CHRISTENSEN Sentinel Staff Writer   
Tuesday, 19 February 2013 11:58
As soft spoken as she is humble, Eilen Jewell has always preferred to let her music speak for itself. Not one for glitz and glamour, nor flashy stage performances, Jewell's approach to music matches her sensibility - honest, straight forward and deceptively powerful.
"Some people prefer more complex sounds and a lot going on, but I think there are those who are definitely refreshed by a band that gets on stage to play the songs without trying to fill up that space with notes," Jewell told the Sentinel awhile back. "It is just a matter of personal aesthetic I guess and I have always had an aesthetic for the simpler things in life."
While her approach may emphasize direct musical communication over showmanship, Jewell has the ability to command the stage with strong songs, a talented band and a diverse palate of sounds and textures that combine the best of "American" roots music.
Jewell and her band return to Bowling Green on Feb. 26 for a free concert at Grounds For Thought at 8 p.m. No strangers to Bowling Green, they were Main Stage performers at the 2008 and 2012 Black Swamp Arts Festivals, and have developed a strong local following to match their growing national and international fan base.
Part of the "Eilen Jewell" appeal is clearly focused on her floating, sensual yet strong voice, coupled with supporting band of top notch players (drummer Jason Beek, guitarist Jerry Miller and bassist Johnny Sciascia). But beyond her strong singing ability and empathetic supporting band, Jewell's appeal might be best attributed to her ability to make the music she performs her own.
Take for instance her 2010 album "Butcher Holler," a tribute to the early recordings of Loretta Lynn. Jewell takes the Lynn-penned originals and creates a heartfelt tribute that revitalizes the classic songs of strong women and the men they love (or that do them wrong) without sacrificing the integrity of the original songs.
While a star-studded Lynn tribute was released on a major label during the same time period, Jewell's "Butcher Holler" won wide critical and popular claim for its understated passion and uncanny resemblance to the spirit of the original recordings.
"It is tricky to do a cover album because I love the originals so much. We definitely ran into the question of if we love the originals so much than why are we redoing them," she said. "You don't want to do them exactly the way they were done, then again I don't like to change things just for the sake of changing them."
In the world of singer-songwriter and Americana genres there is a tendency to want to find commonality amongst musicians. Often the first question someone asks about an artist they haven't heard before is "who do they sound like". For some musicians this connectivity is linear.
But for Jewell, commonality with other musicians is less of a straight line and more of spider's web across blues, jazz, country, folk and rock. With influences ranging from Billie Holiday (her earliest musical influence) to Lynn, Jewell has forged a unique identity as a stylistic chameleon with an ability to create original music that straddles multiple styles and genres.
"I never really set out for a particular sound, which I know a lot of people do," Jewell said. "My method is more to have no method and let the music go where it wants to go. Really it is the songs that dictate."
In many ways Jewell and her band are the purest example of "Americana," a term that has come to encapsulate the melding of multiple forms of American music and styles into a cohesive sound, and often aligned with the less commercial side of modern music.
"I don't know what I would do if there wasn't an Americana genre," she said. "I don't know where I would fit in today's music world. I've got no pop in me. What we do is so not commercial, if it weren't for this kind of underground movement I don't know where I would be."

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