The stand out track of this new album from Eilen Jewell is a protest song written soon after the 2016 presidential election. It’s a rallying call, not just against Trump and the pay gap but also against racism, political tribalism, gaslighting, and the way mothers are treated too. Jewell isn’t afraid to be political, and use her songwriting to take a hard look at the world around her.
79 Cents (The Miaow Song) reminds us, in a wryly humorous way, that the governments of the world are degrading women on the daily. There are no answers here in this song, only a reminder to speak out and always think twice before we trust those in power. A song like this is timely and important. Women are not going to take this crap sitting down. It really helps spread the word when political songs are as fun and infectious as this one. Some (men) might find the message a tough listen but hey try being a women for a day and get back to us before you start complaining.
That song tells of a world that is unfair and divided. Much of rest of the record tries to make sense of that world and searches for some solace. On ‘Crawl’ she’s confused about her life and contemplates hiding or running away from her troubles. I want to crawl right out of my skin, she sings as the bluesy guitars and weeping fiddle plays around her.
Miles to Go is just about how goddamn tiring life can be sometimes. She references Robert Frost’s famous poem and the long journey we have to take through our lives. The beautiful title track Gypsy is about wanting to be free to fly, to embrace another kind of existence. There’s some sweet classic country music on this album too with the great song These Blues and a cover of Pinto Bennett’s You Cared Enough to Lie.
On Hard Times she bemoans the state of the world – she doesn’t want to be ‘disgusted’ or ‘scared’ anymore. Most will find something to sympathise with in her sentiment, no matter their political leanings. Jewell has said that ‘To be alive is to be political, I can’t help but sing about the world as I see it.’
The album finishes with a song called Fear, where she tackles these emotions head on. She won’t be let fear destroy her life or her future. Look him in the eye/ thank him kindly for his time/ say I really must be going/ there’s something I need to find. There’s an optimism here – an embrace of the triumphs and troubles of life in equal measure. Whatever happens we need to remember: don’t take fear to be your guide.
Jewel is distinctive vocalist and a unique songwriter with a sharp take on life, love and politics. Listen, believe in this dream and you will be richly rewarded.