Once upon a time, I was really into the whole alt-country/indie folk thing (I blame Bright Eyes’ I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Cassadega). But luckily, that window coincided with Jenny Lewis’ best entry into that scene.
After leaving Rilo Kiley, former child-star Jenny Lewis went solo with an acoustic guitar and a couple country backup singers. The resulting album is an excellent piece of simple, heartbreaking songwriting and one of the sweetest voices of the 00s (one of my professors said she sings the way he imagined the elves in LotR singing).
And the songs don’t slack. Opening couplet “Run Devil Run” and “Big Guns” are a powerful one-two punch of old-time gospel and country bombast. “Happy,” “Melt Your Heart,” and “Born Secular” are weighty, heart-wrenching country ballads in the tradition of Emmylou Harris, filled with lines like “God works in mysterious ways / and God gives and then He takes / from me” (the most devastating line on the record).
Even poppier tunes like the keyboard tinged “You Are What You Love” (one more song with a shout out to Tim Kasher from Cursive. See also: Bright Eyes’ “Nothing Gets Crossed Out”) and the soulful “Rise Up with Fists” are littered with the same sort of ennui self-doubt. Not that there isn’t some fun: Conor Oberst, Ben Gibbard, and M. Ward show up for a delightful cover of Traveling Wilbury’s “Handle With Care,” which admittedly seems a bit out of place, but is still enjoyable.
But overall, Rabbit Fur Coat is a melancholy piece of country traditionalism that has cast a long shadow over the rest of Lewis’ catalog for me.