Personnel: Eilen Jewell (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica); Steve Fulton (vocals, Wurlitzer piano); Jason Beek (vocals, drums, percussion); Mavis Beek (vocals); Jerry Miller (electric guitar, mandolin); Jack Gardner (trumpet); Johnny Sciascia (upright bass).
Audio Mixer: Steve Fulton.
Recording information: Audio Lab, Boise, ID.
Photographer: Otto Kissinger.
In the years following her acclaimed 2011 LP Queen of the Minor Key, Americana singer/songwriter Eilen Jewell relocated cross-country from Boston back to her hometown of Boise, Idaho, gave birth to a daughter, released a double live album, and still found the time to record what might be the most succinct and poignant album of her career. The retro country, blues, folk, and Western noir that have long made up her palette are all still present, but there's a relaxed feeling to 2015's Sundown Over Ghost Town that suggests Jewell has reached a confident place in both career and life. Maybe it's the homecoming to a setting better suited to her lonesome, high desert sound or maybe it's simply the passage of time colored by recent motherhood, but songs like "Worried Mind," "Half-Broke Horse," and "Songbird" have a wistful country-folk purity that feels earned by years and experience. With backing by her longtime road band, which includes husband and drummer Jason Beek, bassist Johnny Sciascia, and guitarist/mandolinist Jerry Miller, the musicianship is tight and clever but comfortable on tracks like the spooky, steel guitar-aided "Hallelujah Band," over which Jewell delivers well-crafted lines like "I stood next to the tracks just to feel something pushing back/Tearing through each doubt and sin/The train was an iron wind," proving that she still hasn't lost her dark aura. Other songs, like the mariachi-style rocker "Rio Grande" and the shadowy surf-toned rocker "Pages," allow her to play artfully within distinctive genres without losing herself in them, which is one of the things that makes Jewell so special. This excellent release really plays to her strengths, most notably her evolution as a songwriter. ~ Timothy Monger