Jason Walker doesn’t play much with his full band so this was a chance to hear songs from his recently released new album All-Night Ghost Town, fleshed out with drums, bass and lead guitar – with Walker himself on electric. They sounded fantastic too, tight yet still with that alt-country looseness that gave them a weary, melancholic feel. Walker was in fine voice, ensuring the lyrics of songs such as Love Is A Lie and Tears rang out loud and clear around the room with a rich resonance.
Eilen Jewell returned to Sydney only seven months after opening for Jason Isbell at the Enmore Theatre. This was a somewhat smaller venue but she sold out the NSC, a sign of her popularity amongst those who like their country music authentic, dusty and heartbroken.
Her band is a well oiled unit – her husband Jason Been on drums, jaw-dropping guitarist Jerry Miller and bassist Shawn Supra – and they were impressively versatile too, switching from blues to honky tonk, desert noir to swing, country to rockabilly at the drop of a wide-brimmed hat. A decade into her career, Jewell has a strong repertoire to draw from, opening the set with the title track from her debut album Boundary County, on it’s tenth anniversary, before traveling through all her releases plus covers of Big Maybelle and Otis Rush from her most recent and still-to-be-released blues covers project. Miller proved to be a real crowd favourite as he peppered the songs with quick-fire solos from the crossroads of Chuck Berry, CCR and Duane Eddy. He added immeasurably to the dynamic and liveliness of the set.
Jewell also spun a fine, unassuming line of light humour through her between-song banter. She drew the audience into a warm yet gentle mood of bonhomie that felt genuine and humble. The vibe permeated the whole night and was the icing on the cake of what was a faultless display of musicianship, singing and songwriting.