Jenny Lewis: On the Line

review jenny lewis x1 cong

This new album from Lewis encapsulates why she should be more famous — and why she isn’t.

Musically, it’s damn near perfect with clever lyrics, flawless tunes and moments when you think pop music can get no better. Her backing band includes — get this — Beck, Benmont Tench (ex Tom Petty, delivers some lovely keyboard sections), Don Was, Ryan Adams (the less said) and Ringo Starr. When you give a former Beatle a call and he drops in to play on your tracks, you’re pretty good.

As to why she’s not more famous: it just never takes off, somehow. We’ve been listening to the Stevie Nicks boxset this week and a lot of her music is just routine but then she hits the spot and out comes a classic. Lewis’s music is flawless but there’s nothing that’s gold-plated. Aside from that it’s wonderful. If you want perfect country pop, she’s yer woman.

Opener Heads Gonna Roll harks back to Rilo Kiley (her earlier band) in sound: it’s a decent tune but it’s got some great lyrics about her adventures with a “narcoleptic poet from Duluth” who “took me to a graveyard / I thought he’d kill me there / And he kissed me on the corner… “. Then out of a reasonably routine song bursts a Benmont Tench (we assume) organ solo that’s just sublime.

Elsewhere, Red Bull and Hennessy (what a title) has the solid but easy beat of a Fleetwood Mac tune; Hollywood Lawn is slower and has more classy keyboard work.

Standout is Do Si Do, a quirkier track into which she throws in the kitchen sink: chunky beat, delicate piano, catchy chorus (“Do Si Do! Rock n roll!”) and harmonies. The slower Dogwood is also good, starting off with just piano and her voice — even the snare drum is tasty when it comes in — and some guitar that sounds like Johnny Marr (and given her star support, could well be). We read somewhere it’s the same piano that Carole King recorded Tapestry on; Ms King would be a good comparison to Lewis.

Another standout, Little White Dove, could be Ringo, as the drummer counts in, but we could be wrong. This is another perky song, with a neat guitar solo (possibly Beck).

One of those albums the critics will love, the sale not quite matching. She’s a musician’s musician (and there a few studio joke in here, like jumpy endings and feedback) and possibly loves what she’s doing so much she doesn’t care about massive album sales.


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