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CD of The Week

Week of 6/12/23

    Jenny Lewis - Joy'All (Blue Note / Capitol)

    Jenny Lewis continues her prolific songwriting career with Joy’All, the veteran singer’s fifth solo album. While country music has always been in her sonic toolbox going back to Rilo Kiley, as a recent part-time resident of Nashville, she leans into it further than ever on these new songs. However, Jenny’s take on country has always been filtered through her California roots and sensibilities, and that’s certainly the case here.

    Joy’All kicks off with the strummy “Psychos,” a wry look at dating in your 40s, built around the immediate fan-fave lyric "I'm not a psycho, I'm just trying to get laid.” You’d think the great counterpoint harmonies on “Psychos” come from Lewis’s long-time collaborators The Watson Twins but it’s actually Jenny herself teaming up with Jess Wolfe of Lucius.

    The first taste of Joy’All was “Puppy and a Truck,” released while Jenny was opening for Harry Styles on tour because she’d already been playing it every night. The laid-back tune opens with another instant-classic line: “My forties are kicking my ass/And handing them to me in a margarita glass.” It’s a true-ish tale, as with so many of her storytelling songs, about how she found some direction in her life early in the pandemic by getting her puppy Bobby Rhubarb.

    Lewis took part in a series of songwriting exercises led by her friend Beck during lockdown, trying different prompts and ideas to kickstart the writing process. This led to some of the more sparse and unique songs on Joy’All, such as “Love Feel,” written around a list of country clich├ęs, while namedropping Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and even Justin Timberlake along the way (he is from Tennessee).

    The stripped-back title track is a bouncy, percussive ode to finding your joy. “Giddy Up” is a shuffling mix of auto-tune and alt-R&B influences, with a shout-out to her beloved De La Soul ("stakes is high”) as well. The funky, flirty “Cherry Baby” is another high point of Joy’All.

    A pivot from her last record, the glossy, L.A.-made On the Line, this is Lewis’s most stripped-back record since 2006’s Rabbit Fur Coat. Coming in at 10 songs in just over a half-hour, Joy’All feels a little more lightweight and less dense than some of her past work, but that’s intentional. Just because the lyrics and arrangements are sparser doesn’t mean there’s a lot of heaviness and meaning lurking in there, alongside an ongoing quest for joy, be it in a puppy or a partner.

    Jenny returns to Philadelphia at The Met on July 20th. Hear our interview with Jenny about Joy’All On Demand here.
    Review by Joey O.

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