The Queen of the Minor Key

Eilen Jewell and band first toured Australia in 2010 and wowed all who saw her performances; we were enchanted by her quirky humour and bowled over by her scintillating stage presence and musical ability.

It was the same this time round, where thankfully having been invited to participate in the Byron Bay Blues festival, Eilen Jewell took time out to perform several side shows . In fact I think her show this time around was even better than before, if that is possible. Perhaps it was the venue or the free and easy rapport she developed with the adoring audience at the Corner Hotel, but the show rocked in the best of senses.

It was a night to remember, sparkling, lively and with superb music.

There were two support acts; Sweet Jean, who are Melbourne singer -songwriters, Sime Nugent and Alice Keath, who played soulful folk music, and Cold Heart, who were a sort of honky tonk band - two very diverse sets in fact. They were both very good, but certainly didn't outshine the star act of Jewell and her band.

It was shortly after 10.00pm that the curtains swept back to reveal Eilen's band, sans Eilen, playing an introduction that sounded like the opening notes of her song Warning Signs. Then the leading lady swept onto the stage, and picking up her guitar, launched into the first track on the Queen of the Minor Key CD, I Remember You, a smoky, sultry song with delicious dark lyrics.

She upped the tempo with the rocker Warning Signs giving guitarist Jerry Miller a chance to show off his superb mastery of his instrument.

Eilen then paused to introduce the next song, Bang, Bang, Bang, a tongue in cheek ditty about the God of Love, Cupid, stating that rather than being a force for good, he is actually a sociopath, who cares not who his arrows sting. In Eilen's song his weapon of choice is a gun. The sociopath motif was played out over the evening, when somehow the logic involving sociopaths, become synonymous for women, as in some women are sociopaths, ergo all women are sociopaths. Eilen was tickled by this idea as were the audience and it was applied again to the Loretta Lynn song Deep As Your Pocket which followed Bang, Bang, Bang.

Heartache Boulevard and High Shelf Booze followed in quick succession, but Eilen paused many times during her set to chat with the audience, at one stage revealing that the first show she ever attended was Amy Grant, known as the Queen of Christian Pop, and that Fred Eaglesmith was her favourite song writer.

She also expressed her appreciation of Melbourne as the most musical city in the world and how pleased she was to be back in Australia.

Reading the set list you might wonder at the placement of two similarly named songs, Reckless and Restless, but this was deliberate on Eilen's part, an amusing follow on from the sociopath discussion. They are of course two totally different songs, one written by Jewell the other a Carl Perkins cover.

Like her name, Eilen Jewell was in sparkling form, and her fabulous band comprising Jerry Miller on guitar, Johnny Sciascia on upright bass, and Jason Beek on drums and vocal harmonies, matched her bright performance with great accompaniments.

Stage smoke billowed intermittently throughout the set, lending an aura of mystery and a hot night club atmosphere. The music was more rock than country, though Eilen Jewell's brand of rock encompasses swing, blues and gospel.

We were treated to 18 dazzling songs, drawn from across her four album repertoire, plus one - Twelve Gates To The City - from the gospel group Sacred Shakers, a side project in which she plays with another group of musicians that include her touring band members.

She ended her set with a great rendition of her version of the old Johnny Kidd song, Shakin' All Over, where the band performed an extended jam that went on for at least five minutes.

The band returned for one encore, performing the title track to the latest album, Queen of the Minor Key.

And so ended another superb concert by one of the most refreshing and delightful artists of recent times. Let's hope Eilen Jewell returns many times, to indulge our pleasure in her music.

And of course I went to see her again at the Basement Discs on Friday. It was a full-house, a rare occurrence for the shop. Fortunately I arrived early, so was able to peg out my regular spot, before the hordes descended into the basement.

It was of course another delightful show, albeit much shorter in length, but with a few different songs - Dusty Boxcar Wall and If You Catch Me Stealing. And Eilen, when introducing Queen of the Minor Key, mentioned that it was in fact composed in the key of E. - a quirky coincidence.

Review and photos by Anne Sydenham

Set List at Corner Hotel

1. I Remember You
2. Warning Signs
3. Bang Bang Bang
4. Big As Your Pocket (Loretta Lynn)
5. Heartache Boulevard
6. High Shelf Booze
7. Too Hot To Sleep
8. Reckless
9. Restless (Carl Perkins)
10. Gotta Get Right
11. Twelve Gates To The City (Trad)
12. Santa Fe
13. Where They Never Say Your Name
14. Sea Of Tears
15. Rain Roll In
16. Fist City (Loretta Lynn)
17. Shakin' All Over (Johnny Kidd)

1. Queen Of The Minor Key

Set List at Basement Discs

1. Bang, Bang, Bang
2. Reckless
3. Santa Fe
4. Dusty Boxcar Wall (Eric Andersen)
5. Queen Of The Minor Key
6. If You Catch Me Stealing (Bessie Smith)

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