Jenny Lewis and her Rabbit Fur Coat

Rabbit Fur Coat coverI never attempted to hide my weakness for singer-songwriters who can perform with little else but an acoustic guitar. You can’t hide behind an acoustic guitar and it’s the surest path to musical doom if it doesn’t give authority to your voice and, especially, your lyrics.

Jenny Lewis knows that and watching her perform last night at the Birchmere felt almost voyeuristic as it all seemed so sincere. Lewis, the lead singer of indie rock outfit Rilo Kiley, is touring behind a solo album, which she described as a “sort of soul record.” Add some touches of country music and great writing and you have “Rabbit Fur Coat,” the perfect album to listen to when day breaks.

If Jenny Lewis sounds too honest on her record is because she can write. And her writing stops short of pathetic and achieves a balance between overly metaphorical and excruciatingly plain. I actually believe her press packet on this one:

Few writers today could pull off the melodic and verbal sophistication of the slideguitar fueled “The Charging Sky” – in which the narrator gambles with her life, only to come face to face with God – and then, of course, doubt: “but what if God’s not there? / but his name is on your dollar bill / which just became cab fare.” – but Jenny makes it seem remarkably simple. And all listeners will swoon with longing and cringe with recognition upon hearing the devastatingly lovely “Melt Your Heart” (“when you’re kissing someone who’s too much like you / it’s like kissing on a mirror / when you’re sleeping with someone who doesn’t get you / you’re gonna hate yourself in the morning”).

Seeing Jenny Lewis only validated the beauty of her album. I’m happiest — musically speaking — when I can find an album that doesn’t make me want to skip tracks. The last three albums I found that come close to that were The Decemberists’ “Picaresque,” Connor Oberst’s “I’m wide awake it’s morning” and Tilly and the Wall’s “Wild like children”

Take some time to listen to Lewis. It’s worth the effort.

Download from “Rabbit Fur Coat”:
Melt Your Heart

* You can listen to an interview with Jenny on NPR, here.

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