Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
This album is ten years old but due to a technicality, a vinyl reissue, it is fair game for review. I am quite elated that I could find a “loophole” to qualify this album for review. I jest, but normally I would not review a release that is ten years old. I have standards, ya know. If there ever was an older release that would get review consideration without a new event, this would be the one. It is flawless from note one through the final sound. Eilen (pronounced ee-lin) has a perfect voice in the same vein as Nora Jones, Gillian Welch, and Madeleine Peyroux. I am astounded that I have never heard of Miss Jewell before now. I will use my canned excuse, so much music – so little time.
Jewell is originally from Boise, Idaho but spent time in New Mexico, California, and now resides in Massachusetts. She made her bones busking as a street performer in Santa Fe and Venice Beach before moving to Boston and playing the clubs. It is very difficult to differentiate yourself as vocalist when you play solely with an acoustic guitar. My beef is that many of the acoustic guitar, singer/songwriters sound the same. Usually, there is nothing for me that is unique or outstanding enough to pique my interest. Nothing could be further from the truth when it comes to Eilen Jewell. Her sublime and awe inspiring vocals immediately separate her from the rest of the pack. She is quite special.
And Boundary County is a special release. The songs are arranged beautifully, but are still contain enough open space to properly showcase Jewell’s angelic pipes. Although Boundary County leans a little on the minimalistic side, there are plenty of fine instrumentation to really round out this record. There is fiddle, drums, twangy guitar, lap steel, dobro, and upright bass that make these songs strong and sturdy like redwoods. Hey Eilen, I don’t know what took me so long to find you, but it looks like I will be here for a while.