Music

Eilen Jewell - "Down Hearted Blues" (audio) (premiere)

Photo: Joanna Chattman

Americana's Eilen Jewell realizes a life long dream with her new blues album and a kicking title track.

Americana music artist Eilen Jewell has a deep love of musical history, so much so that the Signature Sounds label head called her a musicologist. That's a good thing to be when your stock in trade is a broad range of American roots music. Knowing where different musical forms come from and understanding the traditions, makes for a better artist every time. And Eilen Jewell is indeed a real artist.

For her new album, Jewell and her husband and musical partner Jason Beek dug deep into the history of the blues to find 12 old gems that could be polished into new Americana-influenced versions to give the songs new life. Jewell has always wanted to record a blues album and now Down Hearted Blues realizes that long dream of hers. The album comes out September 22nd, and we've got the title track by way of preview. "Down Hearted Blues" is an old tune recorded by the legendary Bessie Smith back in 1922 that eventually racked up two million copies sold. It's a stone cold classic and a perfect center point for Jewell's thrilling new album.

Jewell says, "I've been loving this song for the better part of two decades now. I think I can trace it back to the first time I had my heart broken. Bessie Smith was a great comfort to me. I had just discovered her music, in the school library. I remember I used to listen to her records while I was avoiding my homework. I would just sit and listen and commune with her, as with a close friend. I lived inside those words, that voice. I took solace in her strength and her vulnerability. She's rebellious, triumphant, angry, downtrodden, heroic, flawed. My old pal Bessie Smith.”

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

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Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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