A demure, grown-up Alice in Wonderland in a black dress and black boots, there's something ethereal but a little bit racy about Eilen Jewell. Pronounced eye-lynn, even her name is just a bit off center.
The 34-year-old bandleader is one part devilish Mississippi River bottom blues and one part sweet folk-singer on the stage in Nashville. The sound she and her crew—three fellas on bass, electric guitar and drums—produces is reminiscent of times long past, but there's nothing stale or dated about her act.
With songs like "Bang, Bang, Bang," about Cupid being more gun-toting psychopath than mischievous matchmaker, Jewell shows off her clever way of defining the grim realities of things lost. Most pieces on her six full-length albums are stories; the subject matter rich in rockabilly lovers, wayward saints and the details of life in between.
The Boise native got her start busking on the streets of Santa Fe, where she attended St. John's College. After school she took up residence in Venice Beach, singing for her supper on the streets. But the sound guests will hear at The Belfry on May 8 didn't take shape until Jewell moved to Boston and met up with the three men in the band, including her husband, drummer Jason Beek.
Traveling the world and playing festivals such as South by Southwest and Pickathon in 2011, the group has won a loyal fanbase. Just a few weeks back it was honored with the Folk/Roots Act of the Year award at the New England Music Awards, a contest that awards only the best of the best in the region.
Some have criticized her work as too old-fashioned, but that's a narrow view. She's a versatile performer who works as much with the music as the words. And with her throwback look and sound, The Belfry should be the perfect venue to see her in all her glory—and at $12, she's a steal.
7 pm, Wednesday May 8
302 E Main St., Sisters.