A songwriter of real note.
Chris Jones 2008-09-12
Jenny Lewis, the Californian ex-child actor and full time member of Rilo Kiley, has used her second solo album to defy expectations. Following Under The Blacklight's retro AOR sound which brought Fleetwood Mac’s classic period to mind, she now turns up on a dusty back road, dealing in the kind of gritty Americana that you'd associate more with Lucinda Williams.
Key elements on this album are country rock and gospel leavened with a dash of dirty Southern rock 'n' roll ( The Black Crowes' Chris Robinson makes an appearance). Recorded mainly live over three weeks, in places tracks (like See Fernando) are gloriously in-yer-face, while in others the harmonies (provided by a host of pals including Zooey Deschanel) are swoonigly lush. The title track's chorus will melt any heart.
Subject-wise Lewis still sticks to what she does best: confessionals with a distinctly grown-up bent (especially on the sexually charged opener, Black Sand). And despite the often-raucous, joyful feel (there are several references to abuse and cruelty. Godspeed is about a friend mired in a dangerous relationship, with Lewis' entreaties falling on deaf ears. Badman's World seems to detail a grim figure from Lewis' distant past. The songs often come across as some cool road movie, peopled by lowlife and losers. Carpetbaggers - her duet with Elvis Costello - is an upbeat tale of grifters and users. So upbeat in fact, that Costello sounds like he did back in 1978. Amazing.
Less successful is Lewis' attempts to (in her own words, do a 'Streisand' by turning three songs into a medley on The Next Messiah. All three songs are fine, but could have stood on their own legs without being shoehorned into a track nearly nine minutes in length..
Acid Tongues is a good album that really focusses on her maturing talent as a songwriter of real note. This credibility capturing performance may reach a maturer audience but one still hopes that she won't discard the obvious pop genius that lurks on previous work.