January 20, 2006

Jenny Lewis: Poor Little Rich Girl

Jenny Lewis has gone from child star to singing with Rilo Kiley to solo act. Best known by Lucy fans as Becky McGibbons from Lucy's last series comedy, "Life With Lucy", Jenny was born in Las Vegas, where her parents had a Sonny and Cher tribute act, but she retains no love for her birthplace. After her father left when she was three, Lewis grew up with her mother and sister in the San Fernando Valley, where she was put out to work to supplement her mother's welfare cheques and waitressing tips. As happens only in Los Angeles, the child quickly became the family's main breadwinner by acting, first in commercials, later on television, with Life With Lucy, and finally in films such as Pleasantville, Foxfire and The Wizard.

At home, the all-female household sang around the kitchen table to singers such as Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette, Roberta Flack, Laura Nyro and Barbra Streisand. Country music always held a particular appeal with her with it's tragic tales and strong female perspectives. Lewis made her singing debut at her seventh grade graduation at age 12, performing "Killing Me Softly" in front of her school.

In 2005, after seven years striving for a breakthrough, her band Rilo Kiley earned rave reviews for their first major-label album More Adventurous, and toured America with Coldplay.

Now, breaking away temporarily to mark her 30th birthday with a solo album, their flame-haired singer is stepping further into the limelight. With her quirky lyrics and kooky look - all hot pants, knee socks and vintage mini-dresses - the elfin Lewis already has the attributes of a star. Plus she has a heartbreaking, spellbinding voice that has earned comparisons with Loretta Lynn. Throw in a past as a successful child actor, and a talented musician boyfriend eight years her junior (Johnathan Rice) and she would seem to have it all.

Her remarkably assured debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, should surprise even established admirers of Rilo Kiley. Stylistically pursuing the country-got-soul direction of "I Never" from More Adventurous, it's a distinctly modern take on what Americans call "old-time" country music. Blending elements of country, folk, bluegrass, gospel and deep soul, it retains a thoroughly modern feel thanks to songs whose bittersweet and sharply observed lyrics reflect the US's current moral crisis.

For more information, read the full article on The Independent. Rabbit Fur Coat' is released on 23 January on Rough Trade Records.

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