w/ 5 & Dimers
Featured Artist #1
Eilen Jewell laughs when told her label's president called her a musicologist. But she confirms she and her husband and bandmate, drummer Jason Beek, have a passion for studying American music.
"We really love to uncover the past. It's almost like digging for buried treasure," she says. "For me, that's where music is at. I like all kinds of music as long as there's the word 'early' in front of it." For her new album, Down Hearted Blues, released Sept. 22, 2017 on Signature Sounds, she and Beek unearthed 12 vintage gems written or made famous by an array of artists both renowned and obscure, from Willie Dixon and Memphis Minnie to Charles Sheffield and Betty James. Then, like expert stonecutters, they chiseled them into exciting new shapes and forms, honoring history while breathing new life into each discovery.
Known for what allmusic.com describes as a "country-flavored and blues-infused version of contemporary folk (which also can include healthy doses of rockabilly and surf)," Jewell's discography includes several albums of original material and one of Loretta Lynn covers. Jewell has also recorded two albums with her eight-piece gospel-group side project the Sacred Shakers. But this latest effort, which she and Beek co-produced, with engineering by pianist/banjo player Steve Fulton and Pat Storey, is her first collection of blues — despite the fact that she credits the genre for igniting her musical curiosity in the first place.
That's because, even though she's dreamed of recording a blues album since discovering Howlin' Wolf as a Boise, Idaho, teen, Jewell had to convince herself she could — and should.
"I've always had this sense of self-doubt about it," she admits. "Like, who am I to sing the blues? I'm a white girl from Idaho. I don't know if I have a right to do that." But she also remembers an old friend's advice: "Everyone has the right to do what they love in this world, regardless of who they are and what background they come from."
Finally, she tired of waging her internal battle and decided to let the "do what you love" side win. It was a wise choice — particularly because she's hardly appropriating or imitating anyone's style; on the contrary, Jewell makes each song her own, while paying homage to her beloved inspirations. It also should be noted that American blues music, like its country of origin, is a melting pot of influences, and that all music evolves from what came before — and that, by recording these songs, she's helping to strengthen the legacy of those who created and popularized them.
Featured Artist #2
5 & Dimers
In a city known more for its pop imports and jam bands, Jeff Rady (pedal steel) and Dustin Devine (lead guitar and vocals) created 5 & Dimers on a whim, but for good reason: they wrote some good country songs and had no band to play them. Dive into the history of the Denver music scene and you'll find a tradition of not only great country music but a long line of country players. From the late 60s all throughout the 80s country music was a featured genre up and down the Front Range: Honky Tonks ruled the roosts and a pedal steel player could find a gig 6 nights a week.
With history behind them and songs in hand, 5 & Dimers booked studio time at Macy Sound Studios, a Denver institution, and recorded 8 songs straight to tape in two days with a patchwork band scrounged from late night phone calls to secret expeerts and diamond-in-the-rough talent found in local dive bars. Born from a shoe string budget and limited time, the record is not only raw and authentic, but sounds like a throwback to how country records were made in the mid-1960s. 5 & Dimers is a celebration of that golden era mixing a blend of vintage country and old school rock-and-roll with just a hint of psychedelia.
5 & Dimers now features Jeff Rady, Dustin Devine, Scott Gunshore (drums), and Chris Loftus (bass).