The Eilen Jewell Band at Club Helsinki

Eilen Jewell has a charm about her that is endearing, but she also has a sophistication. Her music has both of those qualities as well, in addition to a comforting folksy quality. I had the delight of seeing Eilen and her band of Jerry Miller on guitar, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass, and Jason Beek on drums at Club Helsinki in Hudson, NY this past Saturday night. Club Helsinki recently moved to Hudson from Great Barrington, MA, and I am excited beyond measure about it. The venue is a great addition to the city of Hudson. Not only that, but people are coming from all over to attend shows there — and Club Helsinki is only in its “sound check” series! The club has been hosting shows, but is still getting settled in its new — and, hopefully, long-standing — home.

Eilen’s slender frame and demur, pearl-wearing appearance are enough to fool anyone into thinking her voice matches, but that assumption would be incorrect. Eilen has a sweet but bold voice that bends in a smoky, sultry way. She also sings moving gospel songs and robust country tunes, such as the Rev. Gary Davis’ “Twelve Gates To The City” and Loretta Lynn covers. In fact, Eilen Jewell and her band just came out with an entire album of Loretta Lynn songs, which is now available on-line here. Highlights of the night at Helsinki for me included “Twelve Gates” and “Boundary County.” Eilen sang the latter song because she was feeling nostalgic, and both her songwriting and vocals were enough to make me feel the same way — although about what, I don’t know. Eilen somehow provokes raw emotion in the listener, for no reason other than the power of her music and song.

Eilen’s band is a tight-knit unit and they heated up the air-conditioned club. The band’s sound is not limited to any one tempo, style, genre, or any other limitation you can think of. Rather, the musicians excel at each of the various styles and moods that work their way into the band’s songs. Jason is fantastic on drums, as is Johnny on upright bass, and Jerry is an incredible guitarist. Jerry’s mouth involuntarily moves while he plays, which someone in the audience on Saturday commented on. Eilen joked that he speaks in tongues, which is why he’s such an amazing guitarist. Although I know better, that theory makes sense (it really seemed like he was channeling some unearthly power). All of the band members lend a great sound to the music the band creates and the technique of each musician is outstanding, but when you put them all together something even better happens. They are artists of the highest caliber, and excellent entertainers. When Eilen and her band sang “Shakin’ All Over,” Eilen encouraged the audience to shake along with her and even the waitresses started dancing. The band sizzled on that tune, as they did on all the tunes, and their playing was electric in ways other than the literal meaning of that description.The music is many things, and a strange but fitting title I would use to describe it is Southwestern film noir. The band has a warmth and twang, but also a mysteriousness at times. Above all, however, the music of the Eilen Jewell Band has a rare spirit, one that warms the heart and feet.

Here are some videos from the show:

Fading Memory

Sea Of Tears

Back To Dallas

Fine And Mellow

Blue Highway


About this entry