Americana artist Eilen Jewell at Southern Oregon University
Music played in minor keys tends to be a little sad or melancholy and can take audiences to a gloomy place, while music in major keys lends itself to happier, upbeat songs.
Americana singer and songwriter Eilen Jewell sets this stereotypical notion on its ear as she embraces the minor key and rocks it.
"I've listened to Jewell for two or three years now," says Ashland songwriter Sage Meadows. "I heard her song 'Rich Man's World' on the radio one day, went home and listened to everything she's done. I was drawn to her music immediately."
Meadows and her band, High Country — Dave Hampton on drums, Jeff Addicott on upright bass, Will Burrell on pedal steel and Meadows on vocals and acoustic guitar — will open a show for Jewell and her band at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 10, in the Music Recital Hall on the Southern Oregon University campus, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.
Tickets cost $22 or $25 for reserved seats and can be purchased online at www.gaiaconcerts.com, Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., or at the door. Call 541-708-0715 for information.
Meadows shares Jewell's approach to music: Each starts with a story and is inspired by vintage Americana — that amalgam of roots music that embraces varied traditions of folk, country, blues, rockabilly and rock.
"Jewell's music is refreshing," Meadows says. "As songwriters, our music can be dark and discouraging. I love that she takes this idea that the minor key is known to be dark and turns it into something positive. She's turned it around and created music that attracts audiences."
"Queen of the Minor Key" is the title of Jewell's newest and fourth full-length album, released in 2011 on Signature Records.
According to online magazine Saving Country Music, Jewell bridges elements of Americana music not by taking the older art forms and melding them together, but by traveling back to a time when the specific genres were forming and the differences between them were relatively obscure.
The title cut is an example of master songcraft and should become Jewell's signature song, the reviewer said. Also, another top notch element on the album is the Gretsch guitar work of Jerry G. Miller.
"Every guitar player I know is blown away by Miller," Meadows says.
Jewell's live shows feature her longtime road band — guitarist Miller, husband and drummer Jason Beek and upright bass player Johnny Sciascia.
Meadows is influenced by early, traditional country artists Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williams, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings and others, she says.
"Traditional and contemporary styles have one thing in common and that is storytelling," she says. "When I write songs, it's all about finding a story I want to tell and matching it with a musical idea."
Meadows' shows feature her original music, with a few covers thrown in — including "Truth Could Be Told," written by Ashland musician Jef Fretwell.
High Country's first full-length album, "River Roads," was recorded in Meadows' living room and released on an independent label called Valley View Records.