Eilen Jewell's approach to music is informed by vintage Americana — that mercurial mix of roots music that embraces traditions of folk, country, blues, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. Her lyrics tell stories of places, personal experiences and memories, and her honest, unaffected vocals bring those stories straight home.
"I love Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan, and I listen to anything with the word 'early' in front of it: 'early' blues, 'early' country, 'early' gospel, 'early' rock 'n' roll, 'early' rockabilly,' " says the singer and songwriter during a telephone interview. "Mostly artists who've been gone for many decades are my biggest influences.
"There are a few lesser-known contemporary artists who are influencing me these days," Jewell says. "Zoe Muth out of Seattle and Canadian singer and songwriter Fred Eaglesmith give a cinematic quality to their songs. They paint vivid pictures without hitting listeners over the head with them. I relate to that style."
Jewell and her band — guitarist Jerry Miller, drummer, background singer and husband, Jason Beek, and upright bassist Shawn Supra — will perform at 9 p.m. Wednesday, June 29, at Brickroom Gathering House, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased in advance at www.brickroomashland.com.
Jewell grew up in Boise, left to attend a liberal arts school in Santa Fe, N.M., worked with gospel band The Sacred Shakers in Boston and traveled the world before returning in 2012 to Idaho to settle down.
She and her husband, along with Miller and upright bassist Johnny Sciascia, recorded "Sundown Over Ghost Town" in 2015 at AudioLab in Garden City, Idaho. Its 12 tracks all are written by Jewell.
The album kicks off with "Worried Mind," a tribute to Jewell's home state driven by pedal steel guitarist Jake Hoffman. "Hallelujah Band" tells a couple of true childhood stories about restlessness and longing for something extraordinary. Another highlight on "Sundown" is "Rio Grande." With a trumpet intro and breaks by Jack Gardner and Gretsch guitar licks by Miller, the song sounds like a "Maverick" theme song.
"It's a song about the Southwest and how, despite my love for that place, something falls apart for me every time I go there," Jewell says. "I feel like there's a force field that keeps me from staying too long."
There’s another huge, yet tiny, force playing a role in making the album sound so good. Baby girl Mavis was born to Eilen and her husband about halfway through the recording of "Sundown." The album's closer, "Songbird," is about the joy and impact of a new family member. Audiences shouldn't be surprised to see Jewell perform this song alone, with just her guitar and harmonica.
“When I moved back to Boise in 2012, I was confronted by a lot of memories, mostly from childhood," Jewell states on her website. "Certain places conjured some ghosts for me: a pasture near my house, a stretch of desert outside of town, the street where I grew up, the family land in the mountains not far from here. Each small place within the bigger setting of southern Idaho contains its own hugely important memory for me.
"I feel like the album is an attempt to describe this place, as well as what it has meant to me all my life, the place it holds in my heart. A lot of my favorite spots from childhood are largely unchanged, but then I’ve changed so much that my relationship to them is completely different nowadays. And then, of course, the city is much bigger than the one I left behind, and that has presented pros and cons. I hate seeing that pasture land disappear into subdivisions, yet I enjoy how alive the downtown area has become.
“I grapple with this loss of innocence — the land’s as well as my own — in several songs. I used the phrase ‘ghost town’ in the title, not simply because it’s so uniquely western but also as a way of capturing how haunted a lot of these places are for me, full of memories. I think it evokes a sense of loss, but an inherently beautiful one.”