Album of the Week: Jenny Lewis, 'On The Line'

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Jenny Lewis, 'On The Line'
Jenny Lewis, 'On The Line' (Warner Bros.)

Before I discovered Jenny Lewis as the lead singer in Rilo Kiley, I knew her from movies like Troop Beverly Hills, Big Girls Don't Cry... They Get Even and numerous TV roles. By the time I got to know her as a singer songwriter, her past as a child star was pretty far in the rearview mirror, even leading me to ask myself, is she even the same person? (No, but can we ever truly escape our past? Doesn't our past help define our path through this life?) She really pulled off what others in Hollywood have attempted, she found her true calling as a musician and reinvented herself as a major player in the indie rock world. She's been a member of The Postal Service, Jenny and Johnny, Nice as F*ck, even her first solo record was a collaboration with The Watson Twins. Here we are, her fourth solo record, the brand new On the Line is another testament to her ability to create music with other talented musicians, clearly, she's a true collaborator at heart.

On the Line is an album of growth and finding peace for Lewis. It's clear her songwriting has transformed from "songwriter" to "story teller." And she's got some stories to tell, seriously. The more I get to know Lewis' work, the more authentic, honest and real she becomes. In a recent Rolling Stone article, she talks very frankly about her breakup with longtime partner, musician Jonathan Rice. She talks about her estranged relationship with her mother, a mother who battled addition for much of Jenny's life. She also talks about sitting with her mother in the hospital, reconnecting and reconciling before her mom's passing. On the Line is very much informed by experiencing grief and the process of losing family members to the afterlife, but also, the grief and healing that follows the demise of a 12 year romantic relationship. The transparency in Lewis' writing throughout On the Line makes her songwriting as about as relatable as it can get, at least in my experience as a fan.

My colleague Jay Gabler had the opportunity to talk with Jenny Lewis about On the Line. In the conversation, I learned that her dad lived in Hastings, MN before his own passing. She talked about having a connection to Minnesota and Wisconsin, spending time in Minneapolis, even writing a few songs for On the Line while she was here. As a Minnesotan, I love when musicians have any sort of Twin Cities connection, even though Lewis described her connection to Minnesota as "heavy," due to the fact she spent her time here to visit her ill father.

My favorite part of Lewis' conversation with The Current's Jay Gabler is the moment when she describes the immense talent that she recruited to produced and play on her album. She described putting together the musicians and producers as putting choosing a fantasy football team. She knew she wanted to work with legendary session drummer Jim Keltner. The Keltner acquisition lead to Ringo Starr drumming on the album. Benmont Tench of Tom Petty and Heartbreakers was also recruited, along with producers like Don Was and Beck. Not a lot of fanfare has been made of Ryan Adams' contribution to the album, especially after the New York Times report with accusations of sexual misconduct and manipulation by such stars as Mandy Moore and Phoebe Bridgers.

Highlights on this record include the opening track, "Heads Will Roll," "Red Bull and Hennessy," "Do Si Do" and the title track, "On the Line."

Jenny Lewis put herself on the emotional line with this album, and I think fans will appreciate the insight into what makes her tick, and will likely relate to the grieving process and the notion of moving on and coming out OK on the other end of emotional turmoil. Put the record on and sit back and feel the feels with Jenny.

Resources


Jenny Lewis - Official Site

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