Jenny Lewis was a child actor and much later joined alternative band Rilo Kiley. It was at a Rilo Kiley gig that Conor Oberst, of Bright Eyes fame came up to her and asked whether she wanted to do a solo album on his new label, ‘Team Love’. A few months later, ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’ is the result, although it is not quite a solo album as she has enlisted the support of the Watson Twins. While in the UK talk has been of a newfound enthusiasm for folk music (lead somewhat inexplicably by KT Tunstall), Jenny Lewis seems to have enthusiasm for gospel-twanged folk music. The result is an album of acoustic guitar and three part harmonies. Jenny Lewis’ voice sounds at times like Emmylou Harris and is beautiful and expressive and is the perfect vehicle to deliver these musically simple but emotionally complex songs.
Gospel is indeed the word here on the first ‘side’ of this album. (If one can conceptualise the idea that a CD has two sides much like a vinyl record used to). ‘Run Devil Run’ and ‘the Big Guns’ both deliver gospel-type lyrics, although it seems to work substantially better on the latter track which is more upbeat. Recent single ‘Rise Up with Fists!!!’ feels like Jenny Lewis has become some kind of Sheryl Crow soundalike, the catchy rock-pop song is almost infectious. ‘Happy’ is a chance for her to truly demonstrate her vocal abilities. ‘The Charging Sky ‘ brings together the album’s recurrent themes of loneliness, god and death in perhaps its best form:
“It’s a surefire bet I’m gonna die
so I’m takin’ up praying on Sunday nights”
God is a recurring theme throughout the album, but memories of her past seem to haunt Jenny Lewis even more, this is made apparent by the title track ‘Rabbit Fur Coat’. ‘Handle with Care’ is a cover of the Travelling Wilburys with Conor Oberst guest appearing to single the gravly chorus. Although, it is nothing special it will be enough for the album to be noticed outside the traditional 16-25 year old marketplace. It certainly is a fun song.
Jenny Lewis has delivered a strong solo album. Her vocal qualities are obvious from the first listen and the album is atmospheric and moody in just the right quantities. Praise by the mainstream media has been positively gushing, however, I do not think that it is in quite those leagues. Despite many strengths, the real test will be if we are still listening to these songs in a few months time. My hunch is that we may have forgotten about them, but until then, this is a pleasurable album which does deserves to be discovered.