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Eilen JewellSea of Tears
(Signature Sounds)

Like an archival Sun session or a long lost Owen Bradley date, Sea of Tears spooks out at you—a rustic ghost swaggering, blurring the line between immediacy and our collective bygone. Jerry Miller’s foreboding, ringing guitars usher in and accompany Jewell as she sings seductively, laconically, “someday my life will be over and no one will remember my name.” Well, that may or may not be true come Judgment Day, but Jewell’s name is becoming very familiar right now and will deservedly continue to do so as Sea of Tears permeates itself into the musical consciousness.

On its surface, Eilen Jewell’s second national release and third overall—2007’s elegantly resonant Letters From Sinners and Other Strangers and 2006’s dark indie Boundary County—follows a natural growth as a fiercely original artist gives props to her early rock ‘n roll influences. But all of the songs, especially “I’m Gonna Dress In Black”, “One Of Those Days”, “Codeine Arms”, “Sweet Rose”, “Rain Roll In”, insinuate themselves into the bloodstream, slowing the pulse, giving the sound of the heart more reverb and lending it more credence than the noisy machinations of the mind.

This is an ensemble locked in and sparse, making each groove its own while creating a haunted, inseparable whole. Jewell’s delicate yet emotionally visceral songs steer Sea of Tears through a classic Patsy Cline journey of the heart: its broken moments and triumphs; its dark barrooms and darkening bedrooms . . .its eternal, resilient morning after (“Sea of Tears”, “Fading Memory”, “Final Hour”). Even a cover of “Shakin’ All Over” (oh yeah, you can feel that tremor in her thigh) sounds like she wrote it. But interpretation is just one of Eilen Jewell’s many musical gifts. Fortunately she has chosen to share them all in abundance on this vital and invaluable new recording.—Mike Jurkovic

The Eilen Jewell Band will be performing at Club Helsinki in Great Barrington MA (see listings for location and contact info) Friday June 19 at 9 PM.

Cheval SombreCheval Sombre
(Double Feature Records)

As a bite-sized description, the press quote that accompanies the debut by Cornwall-on-Hudson singer-songwriter Cheval Sombre is right on the money: “Delicate, druggy slowcore folk.” And with such instantly recognizable reference points as Galaxie 500 and the mellower Spacemen 3 stuff, Sombre must’ve been in—pardon the pun—high heaven during the making of this album, as it also features the playing and production of said outfits’ respective leaders, Sonic Boom and Dean Wareham (also here is bassist Britta Phillips, who is Wareham’s life partner, fellow ex-Luna member, and Dean & Britta foil; the couple runs the Double Feature label).

With his strummed acoustic guitar as its constant core, however, the folk end of Sombre’s spectrum, if you will, is more pronounced than those of his heroes, a stance underscored by the spaced-out versions of the traditionals “You Don’t Know My Mind” and “I’ve Been All Around This World.” Cheval Sombre’s droney guitars and organ and watery, endearingly off-key, Leslie speaker-soaked vocals are pure sonic bliss, though some may long for a shift in the songs’ unwaveringly sleepy tempo as the hour-long disc floats lazily down to the landing strip. (See Woodstock’s similarly influenced Venture Lift for a more varied and winning example of modern psychedelia.) Yet and still, though, a fine start, so stay tuned and watch for Sombre on tour.—Peter Aaron

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