It’s bitterly cold today. There’s snow on the ground, it’s barely above freezing and I need my coat, hat, gloves and hand warmers to venture outside. I’ve just received an email from Sussex County Cricket Club telling me that I have a week to buy my tickets for the 20/20 competition this year. I can pay now or later but tickets aren’t guaranteed. Will there be any cricket to watch in June? The idea of sitting in the sun watching cricket is tempting for lots of reasons, one of which is the idea of going outside without a big heavy coat. On the other hand, in recent years, I’ve taken my coat, hat and gloves to some evening matches in the Summer and I’ve still been cold. I’ve never owned a fur coat, never mind a rabbit fur coat, but I’ll take anything if it keeps me warm. As long as no animals are harmed.
The first time I came across Jenny Lewis when when I saw the video for “Rise Up With Fists!!”. It’s a brilliant song and it was the reason that I bought the album. Luckily, there are several other really enjoyable songs on the album. The video is sensational but it wasn’t until today that I appreciated how clever it is.
The song is addressed to someone whose life is a mess but has good intentions. Jenny Lewis thinks it’s impossible for him to change but she realises that she is headed down the road of drudgery and a wasted life unless she, herself, can rise up. With fists!! She has a lovely voice and The Watson Twins harmonise beautifully on the backing vocals. The music is probably best described as “independent country”.
The video is very clever because it is a pastiche of “Hee Haw” which ran for 25 seasons between 1969 and 1993. It was loosely based on “Rowan And Martin’s Laugh In” but was aimed at a more right wing rural audience who appreciated country music. It was introduced by Buck Owens and Roy Clark and featured The Hee Haw Honeys in archetypal “farmer’s daughters” clothes. The YouTube clip below is long – it has Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn on it (who are, of course, excellent) and the first minute is worth watching to further appreciate Jenny Lewis’ video.
The actress in the video who says “And here is Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins” is Sarah Silverman. She is also a stand up comedian who has courted controversy by including routines which tackle racism and sexism by portraying comic characters who ironically endorse politically incorrect attitudes. In January 2008 she appeared on The Jimmy Kimmel show who was her boyfriend at that time. She introduced a video called “I’m fucking Matt Damon”. In June 2007, Paris Hilton was in the audience when Sarah Silverman hosted the MTV Movie Awards. Paris Hilton was about to start a jail sentence for driving under the influence of alcohol. Sarah Silverman said “In a couple of days, Paris Hilton is going to jail. As a matter of fact, I heard that to make her feel more comfortable in prison, the guards are going to paint the bars to look like penises. I think it is wrong, too. I just worry she is going to break her teeth on those things.”
It is often said that Americans don’t understand irony. That’s obviously rubbish but it’s true to say that some Americans don’t understand irony just as some British people don’t. I remember my English teacher telling me that he was a friend of Johnny Speight who wrote “Till Death Us Do Part”. Apparently, there were many times when Warren Mitchell, who played Alf Garnett, was seen in public, someone would tell him that they agreed with everything he said. Some people didn’t understand the irony behind “Till Death Us Do Part”. Some people didn’t understand some of Sarah Silverman’s more outrageously ironic comments. I don’t understand the front cover of Jenny Lewis’ 2019 album, “On The Line”. Is it ironic? Is it a statement? Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that Ryan Adams produced some of the songs on the album before he was accused of serious sexual misconduct by several musicians. Jenny Lewis is quoted as saying “The allegations are so serious and shocking and really fucked up, and I was so sad on so many levels when I heard, I hate that he’s on this album, but you can’t rewrite how things went. We started the record together two years ago, and he worked on it — we were in the studio for five days. Then he pretty much bounced, and I had to finish the album by myself.” The reviews of the album were very good so I think this is an album that I should explore further.
“Rabbit Fur Coat” opens with an acapella song called “Run Devil Run” which segues into “The Big Guns”. She played these two songs on Jools Holland’s “Later”. The former is a low key beautiful start to the album and the latter is an up-tempo confessional song dealing with a failed attempt to hook up with an egomaniac.
“Handle With Care” is a song from The Travelling Wilbury’s first album, co-written by Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison. One of the musicians on the album is Jonathan Rice who played Roy Orbison in the film “Walk The Line”. Jenny Lewis explained why she chose to include this song on the album. “I chose it because of the lyric. It couldn’t have been more perfect for the story of my life. ‘Sent to meetings, hypnotized / Overexposed, commercialized’? That’s like my whole childhood.”
Jenny Lewis was born in Las Vegas, Nevada and was the lead singer in Rilo Kiley who made four albums before disbanding in 2014. She has been involved in three other musical projects: The Postal Service, Nice As Fuck and Jenny & Johnny. Before embarking on a musical career, she was a child actress, appearing in “Troop Beverly Hills” (1989) and “The Wizard” (1989) and the television series “Brooklyn Bridge”. The Watson Twins are Chandra and Leigh Watson, born in Oklahoma and raised in Kentucky. They have recorded five albums or EPs. Mike Mogis was the producer of “Rabbit Fur Coat”. He is a permanent member of Bright Eyes, the band formed to make Conor Oberst’s songs. He produced “Lifted Or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground” by Bright Eyes as well as Jonathan Rice’s albums. James Valentine and Mickey Madden are the guitarist and drummer with Maroon 5 and they play on “Rabbit Fur Coat” as well as appearing in the video for “Rise Up With Fists!!”
On “Melt Your Heart”, Jenny Lewis sings “Nothing is ever as good as it was“. I assume she is being ironic. Oh well. That makes a mockery of everything personal I’ve written on this blog about the past. Let’s hope the weather can melt the snow and I can get out of the house tomorrow to gain a better perspective.