Eilen Jewell is one of those artists who isn’t easy to define. The Boise-based singer/songwriter doesn’t fit comfortably under any record store genre placard and moves effortlessly between multiple styles on all of her albums.
Her latest LP, the upcoming Gypsy, isn’t going to be the first to break that trend. Set for release on Aug. 16, Jewell’s new 12-song collection (the eighth under her own name and first of original music since 2015’s Sundown Over Ghost Town) is another varied affair.
From the rock and roll chug of opener Crawl to the pedal steel-led honky-tonk of standout These Blues, Gypsy once again showcases Jewell’s signature sound while drawing from a pallet of Americana, blues, country, roots, folk and more.
And while the frontwoman compartmentalizes enough to also have released a couple of gospel albums with her other band, The Sacred Shakers, she does wonder about the diverse approach of her namesake act.
“I sometimes lose sleep thinking this music is too eclectic,” said Jewell from a recent stop in Buffalo, N.Y. “I wonder if maybe we should focus it. But I love early blues as much as I love early country and early rock and roll — everything early! — so which one is going to get the ax? It just wouldn’t be doing the songs any justice if I stuffed them into a category.”
Thank goodness that’s how she feels. Jewell’s strong suit is the way each of her songs, regardless of style, flows into another like an expertly crafted playlist for a long-drive road trip.
Although Jewell isn’t about to switch her formula any time soon, she is starting to experiment in different ways.
For starters, Gypsy is the singer’s first foray into overtly political lyrics. The sing-along, tongue-in-cheek humor of 79 Cents (The Meow Song) takes on wage discrimination, sexism, and racism in equal measure, while tracks like Beat the Drum and album closer Fear tackle the issues with a far straighter face.
Incredibly, Gypsy also marks the first time that the bandleader has played electric guitar on an album.
“I wasn’t necessarily avoiding it,” Jewell said. “I just thought every time that I picked one up that it was going to be comfy. And it always felt so foreign to me. I never really thought I would do it.”
That is, until two years ago when her husband and band drummer/manager Jason Beek got her an electric guitar for Christmas. More importantly, he got her a Tremolo Pedal to go with it.
The wavering sound produced was so close to that of her Hammond B3 organ with a Leslie cabinet — a longtime favorite and something she’s played on nearly every album — the new addition to her musical arsenal finally happened.
There should be an electric guitar in Jewell’s hands (at least for a song or two) when she performs on Aug. 7 at the Sweetwater Community Church in Bonita for AMSD Concerts.
Along with the rest of the band, Jewell, Beek, and their 5-year-old daughter Mavis (named after legendary singer and activist Mavis Staples) will be on the road in the U.S. through September, then head to Europe in November to close the year out overseas.
They already have a studio booked in Boise for that time in between, but as they’ve done since album one, there won’t be all that much prep before they buckle down and record number nine.
“We’re loose in the saddle,” said Jewell with a laugh. “We play mostly live. And we see what we can get. I prefer it that way. We don’t sound like we’re doing it by rote. I like to feel it out in the moment. That’s kind of my MO. And it seems to be working. I mean, I haven’t had to have a day job since 2007. And that’s my yardstick.”
When: 7:30 p.m., Aug. 7
Where: AMSD Concerts, 5305 Sweetwater Rd., Bonita