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Jenny Lewis set to release solo debut

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(U-WIRE) CHICAGO -- Jenny Lewis has the life. She's gorgeous, talented, lives in L.A. and schmoozes with uber-hip indie rock dudes like Connor Oberst and Ben Gibbard. While that lifestyle may be intimidating to some, the Rilo Kiley front woman writes songs relatable enough to have attracted legions of fans who hang on her every word -- and rightfully so.

To the delight of Rilo Kiley fans everywhere, this winter Lewis will release "Rabbit Fur Coat," a solo album that provides much-needed relief from the cold. The album may throw some Rilo Kiley fans off -- it replaces a lot of the keyboards and poppy guitar riffs (a la "More Adventurous") with folksier, country-infused songs complete with religious undertones.

While a spiritual record from the girl who recently crooned "Baby, I'm bad news" sounds peculiar, don't be too wary. From start to finish, "Rabbit Fur Coat" is as emotional, lyrically solid and vocally diverse as Lewis has ever been. She makes it clear that she has done some not-so-good things in her life, but she shows concern for things like the afterlife and forgiveness by a higher power. In "The Charging Sky" she sings, "And it's a surefire bet I'm gonna die / So I'm taking up praying on Sunday nights / And it's not that I believe in your almight / But I might as well as insurance or bail."

Despite the religious content, "Rabbit Fur Coat" does have a few love songs in Lewis's always narrative and relatable voice. "You Are What You Love," and "Melt Your Heart," are examples, and two of the best songs on the album.

Lewis also uses her indie rock connections well. Death Cab for Cutie's Gibbard and the man behind Bright Eyes, Oberst, make appearances on "Handle With Care," a cover of the song by the Traveling Wilburys (a supergroup formed in the late '80s by Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne and Roy Orbison). "Handle with Care" is one of the more upbeat songs on the album, one of those rare songs your dad would actually appreciate.

Although it's considered a solo effort, Lewis also worked closely with the Kentucky-born Watson Twins, who provided some gospel-like harmonies to the already gorgeous arrangements.

It's unclear exactly why Lewis decided to record a solo album rather than take some time off during Rilo Kiley's break, but it's an effort her fans will appreciate. "Rabbit Fur Coat" hits stores on Jan. 24 from Team Love Records.

(C) 2005 The Columbia Chronicle via U-WIRE

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