It is the battered cassette jammed in the tape deck of the getaway car, the music Ida Lupino cues up on the roadhouse jukebox as she counts the till after close. This is Queen of the Minor Key by Eilen Jewell, a smart cookie with a heart of burnished gold and enough stories to keep even the rowdiest crowd hanging on her every word. Though its long shadows and dark corners make her kingdom feel intimate, her sovereign domain stretches as far as the imagination. Its denizens seek refuge in padded rooms, abandoned automobiles … and strong spirits. They defend their territory by any means necessary: weird voodoo, sawed-off shotguns, broken bottles.
But beware, savvy observer. There is more to Eilen Jewell than meets the ear. Do not confuse the singer and her songs. The drama and darkness that give Queen of the Minor Key its gritty texture are in short supply in the Boston-based songwriter’s personal life. And in a curious twist, these fourteen originals actually took shape in a sunny, idyllic location that contrasts strikingly with the album’s moody, film noir atmosphere.