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CD review: Eilen Jewell Presents Butcher Holler


A Tribute to Loretta Lynn Out July 27

One day last summer, instead of coming straight home from work, I decided to head to the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge for a show by a group called Butcher Holler. Full disclosure: I knew what I was in for. Eilen Jewell and her band performing the songs of one of her idols, Loretta Lynn. (Butcher Holler or, more accurately, Hollow in Kentucky, is in fact the birthplace of Lynn.) I also knew Lynn’s songs were not foreign to Jewell, who has covered of few on her albums and played even a few more live in concert.

But what was a surprise that night and on her new album called Butcher Holler, which comes out officially July 27, was how incredibly natural Jewell is to carry the torch of Lynn’s amazing, heartfelt tunes.

The album opens appropriately on one of my favorite Lynn-penned, Jewell-covered tunes, “Fist City.” It’s hard to believe a country gal living below the Mason-Dixon line in the ‘60s could get away with singing lyrics like this: “I’m not a sayin’ my baby’s a saint ’cause he ain’t/N’ that he won’t cat around with a kitty/I’m here to tell ya gal to lay offa my man/If ya don’t wanna go to fist city.”

Lynn broke some serious barriers for female singers of her time with her tough-as-nails, not-taking-any-guff tunes, and Jewell delivers them with a similar musical sneer. Both Lynn and Jewell are at their best on these tougher tunes – “Ain’t Woman Enough (to Take My Man),” “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind.” “Wanna Give Me a Lift” is a sassy reminder of Lynn’s toughness, as Jewell sings “You wanna give me a lift but this gal ain’t goin’ that far.” There are so many fun songs on this album, its tough to pick out favorites. Jewell is once again backed by her superb band – Jason Beek on drums, Jerry Miller on guitars and Johnny Sciascia on bass – though they tend to stay more in the background on this album than on Eilen’s stellar “Sea of Tears,” released last year.

“Who Says God Is Dead” bounces along on Miller’s stellar guitar playing. And we don’t want to leave out how Jewell also capably handles Lynn’s gentler side: songs such as “A Man I Hardly Know,” fronting Miller’s gorgeous steel guitar-playing, “Whispering Sea” and “This Haunted House.”

The album finale is Lynn’s swinging hit “You’re Looking at Country,” a fitting way to close out a sentimental tribute from a modern country girl to her music legend idol.

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