Clarendon Hotel
Katoomba, NSW, Australia
Wednesday, 10th March, 2010

Sea of Tears was - by some margin - my favourite album of 2009, and having seen Eilen Jewell's concert clips on YouTube, I couldn't suppress my high expectations of her show in Katoomba.

The Clarendon Hotel is a small, somewhat out-of-the-way venue that has long punched above its weight in attracting top line acts. About two hours west of Sydney, it's the spiritual home of the Blue Mountains Music Festival.

High expectations can lead to disappointment, right?

Not this time.

Eilen and band played a brilliant ninety minute set, mostly from Sea of Tears and Letters from Sinners and Strangers , plus the title track from Boundary County, Fine and Mellow from the Heartbreak Boulevard EP, and Honky Tonk Girl from the Loretta Lynn side project, Butcher Holler.

It was a fun show. Eilen Jewell has a winning personality - feisty, smart, self-deprecating, and just a bit daffy - and she won the audience over from the get-go. (And she'd done her homework, introducing Shakin' All Over as a Normie Rowe song. Melbourne's Normie Rowe had the Australian hit version in the mid-60s.)

This band has been together for a long time, and it shows. Like Eilen's singing, their playing is seemingly effortless, but imaginative, always exciting and note-perfect.

Guitarist Jerry Miller, being the only soloist, shares the spotlight for much of the time, and he is a very, very fine player. His twangy Gretsch is the stylistic glue which makes Sea of Tears - ranging from old school C&W to British invasion - sound all of a piece.

(Jerry Miller is not, by the way, the former Moby Grape guitarist. While he cuts an avuncular figure against the 30-year-old Jewell, he's a much younger man than the Grape's Miller, now in his late sixties.)

Mostly, the show is about what attracts you to Eilen Jewell's records - one of the best roots music voices to emerge in the last decade, and great song writing. Not for nothing is she being compared to Gillian Welch and Lucinda Williams.

Highlights? Hard to pin down, but I'd nominate Sea of Tears (perfect retro rock), Rain Roll In and the show stopping Shakin' All Over. And a whisper-quiet reading of Billie Holliday's Fine and Mellow demonstrated Jewell's range.

It was a great privilege to see this band in an intimate venue, with just 100 or other fans. It was an "I was was there" moment.

I doubt I'll get the chance again, and I hope not. Eilen Jewell deserves to be playing big theaters and big festivals.

This trip has been low key. She played Port Fairy (a major folk festival in western Victoria), the Clarendon, a club date in Sydney, and two smaller festivals in Victoria. (She also squeezed in a showcase set , available here, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporations' digmusic channel.)

I can't wait for her next visit.

Setlist is from memory. The song list is pretty damn close. The order might be a little scratchy.

Views: 217

Comment by denton fabrics on March 12, 2010 at 11:12am
I'd go see that show in a minute. Shakin' All Over is her obvious encore, would have liked to have heard Thanks A Lot in that wonderfully casual, plaintive voice of hers.
Comment by Anne S on March 13, 2010 at 7:13pm
Saw her at East Brunswick Club on Friday night (12 March). She was fantastic! Played for over two hours.

Here's the song list (in order):

Rain Roll In
Sea of Tears
The Darkest Day (Loretta Lynne)
Heartache Boulevard
High Shelf Booze
Fine and Mellow (Billy Holliday)
Where They Never Say Your Name
Tagging Along With Jesus (George Jones)
Everywhere I Go
Dusty Boxcar Wall (Eric Anderson)
Thanks A Lot (Charlie Rich)
Too Hot To Sleep
Fist City (Loretta Lynne)
I’m Gonna Dress In Black (Van Morrison)
Mess Around
Rich Man’s World
Sweet Rose
Shakin’ All Over (Johnny Kidd)
If You Catch Me Stealing (Bessie Smith)
Putty In Your Hands (Shirelles)
Codeine Arms
Comment by Steve Ford on March 14, 2010 at 1:59am
Great list. Unfortunately there's a noise curfew at Katoomba, so 90' was it. I pray she's back in Oz for the festival season next year.
Comment by Dude on March 17, 2010 at 8:04pm
Saw her at Port Fairy. She played at the Shebeen on Saturday nite. The Shebeen is the only area where alchohol is served and despite the raucus crowd at the start by the end she had them eating out of the palm of her hand. She's a gem.
Comment by Steve Ford on March 21, 2010 at 3:42am
See Anne's review of Melbourne show here.


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.