JEWELL AND SHEW
INSTRUMENTS AND CONTROLS
Reviews from England........
Comes with a Smile -- UK Review By Stav Sherez -
"Flying Away" is almost too good. A strummed acoustic guitar gives way to a breathy, rushed vocal, "The frost is killing the strawberry fields as I board the plane to London / And like a circus man in a high wire act I get the shudders all of a sudden" he sings and you're drawn in instantly, Jewell sputtering the words out of his mouth as if the hounds of hell were yapping at his ankles. It's fantastic, sounding like an outtake from early Springsteen it's the best thing on this album and one of the songs of the year
also released a great album in 99 ('Wasted') that slipped under most people's
radar (including mine) but is definitely worth seeking out for alt.country
fans sick and bored to death with earnest Americana or Indie fans looking
for something altogether different. click
here for full review
Altcountrytab -- Review by: Doug Floyd - UK : James Jewell and the Shew ³Instruments and Controls² is one of the more eccentric records that Iıve heard for a while, this one is most definitely from the ³alt² side of the genre. This Pennsylvania three piece makes a form of music that is maybe most closely identifiable as bluegrass, comparisons have been made with anything from Meat Puppets to Camper Van Beethoven, but it enjoys many peculiar and mixed up twists that take you from one side of curious to another.
Music Magazine (Maurice
The Morning Call By John Terlesky (brother JT)
It might be a stretch to call Reading's James Jewell and Shew ''bluegrass''; the trio is more influenced by rootsy insurrectionaries the Meat Puppets or Camper Van Beethoven than by any more rustic sources. But beneath the off-kilter sensibilities of songs such as ''Pretend,'' ''Real Friend'' and ''Thank God'' as well as others from the group's self-released CD ''Instruments and Controls'' (Antenna) there is a dirt-simple shuffle and mournful, open-chord simplicity that suggests misbegotten rural mornings, be they in Kentucky or Pennsylvania Dutch country.
Village Voice (Andrew Ader)
A blend of son volt / violent femmes / johnny cash - alt-country with an emphasis on humor
Philadelphia city paper (Brian Howard)
James Jewell and Shew Instruments and Controls -- What it is: Second album from Kutztown roots-rockers (emphasis on rock). Jubilant, earnest, witty songs about good folks and good times. What it sounds like: A honkytonk, topsy-turvy, sudsy, no-depression hootenanny.
Green Man Review (Gary Whitehouse)
"In a world of prefabricated pop and by-the-numbers balladry, James Jewell and Shew are unabashedly original. Highly recommended."
Jewell creates music that is unclassifiable and, once you've heard it, immediately recognizable. His music rides a wide territory that takes in indie rock, alternative country and folk, with elements of bluegrass, honky-tonk and the geek rock of acts like They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes.The tunes are catchy as well as melodic, and teamed with Jewell's lyrics they're capable of lodging deep in your subconscious and tormenting you for days on end.
James Jewell has released another masterpiece, Instruments and Controls is itself a sort of concept album, about the past, the future, dreams and memories, and especially about leaving and staying, of finding that perfect balance between home and distance.
But the beauty of Jewellıs music is that those who get it get it deep. Itıs moving and sinkıs into the soul, which is not to suggest, in any way, that itıs all serious. Indeed, part of the very reason that Jewell and friends make music is is that creating is itself an important fun act. Creation is what makes us human. The banjo and harmonica, along with the bass and Jewellıs trademark voice, meanwhile, fill the listener with that same sense.
The music is so down home that one assumes itıs simple and familiar , but the paths it travels take one far away. Itıs a tour de force of simple things that matter more than important things. If that makes any sense to you, dear reader, I recommend you grab a copy of "instruments and controls"
Freight Train Boogie (Scott Homewood)
JAMES JEWELL & SHEW manages to raise quite a few questions about how country can be combined with psychedelia to produce a different kind of music altogether. I can see this being played in some redneck bar at the edge of the Twilight Zone.
James Jewell has this swirl of Roger Miller, Johnny Cash, and the Violent Femmes inside his head that gets to his fingers before the pigeonhole police bring the heat. Shew's new album "Instruments & Controls" is sure a treat.
Green Man Review (Gary Whitehouse)
Jewell, who lives, works and plays in Kutztown, Pennsylvania (between Reading and Johnstown), creates music that is unclassifiable and, once you've heard it, immediately recognizable. His music rides a wide territory that takes in indie rock, alternative country and folk, with elements of bluegrass, honky-tonk and the geek rock of acts like They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies and Violent Femmes. The tunes are catchy as well as melodic, and teamed with Jewell's lyrics they're capable of lodging deep in your subconscious and tormenting you for days on end.
Jewell has a rough voice somewhere between a baritone and a tenor, and he delivers his songs in a half-spoken, half-sung manner, ranging from a near whisper to a yelping growl. He accompanies himself on guitar, usually a strummed or finger-picked acoustic, and his band Shew provides sparse backing vocals (ragged ooohs, aaahs and la-la-las) along with electric bass and drums. The most common rhythm is a fast-paced, railroad-beat shuffle played on the brushed snare. A handful of other musicians help out on instruments ranging from melodica and synthesizer to handclaps and "elephante."
Wasted is a wildly original debut. The songs, most of which have one-word titles like "Lost," "Colors," "Uphill," "Rely," and "Wasted," are little poetic gems with oddly metered lyrics like "Everybody's lost, and all hope is gone," "Where does the wind blow us when our time is through?" and "You said that I think too much/But all I've got's in my head." The melodies are simple , the rhythm strong and deliberate, and the vocals up front over very sparse instrumentation. The opening track, "Lost," sets the tone perfectly. In one song are echoes of the Holy Modal Rounders' surrealistic folk, the Meat Puppets' off-kilter harmonies, Lambchop's country-lounge vibe, even Leonard Cohen's existential despair. "I can't see with my eyes, I can't hear with my nose/but I can smell everything with my heart and I keep my mouth closed." "Cigarette" is a languidly chugging miniature metaphor, with accents of banjo, melodica and dobro. "Colors" is a lazily swinging study of colors as metaphor for emotions.
Jewell sings "Spider" solo with just his own fingerpicked guitar. It starts as a childlike ditty about a spider in a windstorm, and ends up as a musing on the nature of eternity. The title track adds horns to the mix of an acoustic rocker, with references to the Beatles and Rolling Stones, and lyrics that are overpacked like early Springsteen. "Train" is a mystical stew using the imagery of road and rail: "Late at night when the hills turn black/and you can't see the highways and tracks/the trucks and the trains leave the ground and they fly/like spirits leave their bodies when they die." The album's high point is "Rely," a bluesy paen to love and friendship with a hopelessly catchy a capella chorus, "I rely, I rely, I rely, I rely on you." At 44 minutes, Wasted is about the length of an old vinyl LP, although the songs, which average about 4 minutes, sometimes overstay their welcome by a minute or so. But overall, Wasted is one of the most consistently entertaining CDs I've encountered in a long while.
Bruce Warren (Program Director WXPN University of Pennsylvania)
i like the vibe of the record, reminds me of the grateful dead's workingman's dead if paul westerberg was the lead singer
GRIF OF CD SPECTRUM
James Jewell has obviously listened to a lot of music throughout his life, as how else would you explain how rock, folk, hillbilly, country and bluegrass can all seamlessly blend together to create a very listenable release? Featuring banjo , guitar , percussion, bass, keyboards and perhaps a few pots and pans,
Wasted is a release
that will appeal to the fans of the No Depression scene (a la Son Volt)
and aggressive alt-country (a la Marah and Waco Brothers). Think Johnny
Cash meets Leonard Cohen and you're on the right track, sort of.