Rabbit Fur Coat, the first solo offering from Rilo Kiley
frontwoman Jenny Lewis (backed by Louisville natives Chandra
and Leigh Watson), is a delightful collection of gospel- and
country-tinged songs reminiscent of Virginian-era Neko Case.
Filled with tales of down-and-out relatives, crises of faith, political
frustrations, and modern romantic complexities, Rabbit Fur Coat
is old-school country laced with elements of contemporary cowpunk,
blue-eyed soul, and roots rock.
The album's opener "Run Devil Run" is an a capella gospel
song, featuring three-part harmonies by Lewis and the Watsons, that
ends with the refrain "Run devil run...away from love."
"Run Devil Run" converges with the following track, "Big
Guns," a twanging guitar lament about losing faith in the face
of violence and chaos of the modern world that features a stomping
rhythm. Likewise, "Rise Up With Fists" is a political
lament in which Lewis critiques everything in American society from
the pressures placed on women by the Hollywood beauty machine to
infidelity and lax morals. "I still believe, and I will rise
up with fists," she tenaciously proclaims over a country-rock
melody. In "The Charging Sky," Lewis changes her focus
to world politics, pleading for US assistance in the African AIDS
crisis over a minimalist rockabilly/roots-rock beat.
Lewis's love songs are equally contemplative, exploring the difficulties
of relationships while seemingly affirming the need for intimacy nonetheless.
"Happy" finds Lewis debating over whether she wants to remain
in a relationship, while still ironically proclaiming her happiness
in the chorus. "Happy" is undoubtedly one of the highlights
of Rabbit Fur Coat - a hybrid country track with old-school
guitar riffs laced with modern feedback, all accented by Lewis's torchy
alto. "You Are What You Love" also features sultry, soft
vocals over a melody that is infused with both rockabilly and lounge
touches. "You Are What You Love" is a "baby, take me
back" song that finds Lewis examining why she and her lover are
so entangled and yet can't seem to stay together. The album's sole
cover, a cowpunk version of The Traveling Wilburys' "Handle
With Care," finds Lewis (with vocal help from Bright Eyes'
Conor Oberst and Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard)
pleading for her lover to take care with her already broken heart.
Rabbit Fur Coat ends with a reprise of "Happy," featuring
only Lewis's sultry, echoing vocals and hand percussion.
While Lewis's lyrics may occasionally be somewhat repetitive, Rabbit
Fur Coat is anything but tedious. Lewis's breathy vocals and contemplative
lyrics, as well as the stellar musicianship of the Watsons, make Rabbit
Fur Coat an alt-country gem, filled with twangy melodies, dance-worthy
rhythms, and adept observations on life and love.
-Tracy M. Rogers
1. Run Devil Run
2. Big Guns
3. Rise Up With Fists
5. The Charging Sky
6. Melt Your Heart
7. You Are What You Love
8. Rabbit Fur Coat
9. Handle With Care
10. Born Secular
11. It Wasn't Me
12. Happy (Reprise)
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