Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins
Rabbit Fur Coat
By illuminating contemporary lyrics through a bluegrass prism, Sarah Harmer’s masterful I’m a Mountain merges old and new in a genre-busting, demographic-defying way. But where you have to dig through layers of jaunty banjo and foot-tapping fiddle to get to the central theme of Harmer’s record — she’s in love with someone who doesn’t know it (idiot!) — Jenny Lewis makes a direct grab for your heart with her gospel-tinged solo debut. Lewis, the firecracker centre of the great Rilo Kiley, sings indie rock songs buzzing with synth and multiple guitar parts for that band. On Rabbit Fur Coat, Saddle Creek go-to Mike Mogis wisely keeps Lewis’ glorious voice steady in the centre, backing her up with delicate harmony in the form of Kentucky sisters the Watson Twins, lush acoustic guitars and little else, resulting in straight-up production with no room, and no need, for tricks. A nod to Laura Nyro and LaBelle’s Gonna Take a Miracle (1971), Rabbit Fur Coat finds Lewis slowly and resolutely contemplating life and god. “Run, devil, run,” she demands in the 68-second a capella opener. He does not comply, popping up for a periodic spar as Lewis tries to find love and happiness. The titular track is a stunning one-take solo performance, the coat a metaphor for the former child actor’s social-climbing mother. “Was all this for that rabbit fur coat?” Lewis asks now, broke and estranged. On “Born Secular,” the record’s achingly sad standout, she tries to find faith but can’t: “God goes where he wants/And who knows where he is?/Not in me.” Pray to whomever you must for this stellar, graceful, beautiful album to go where it wants.