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Jenny Lewis | On the Line

VIP players help the Rilo Kiley frontwoman deliver a bona fide pop-rock classic.

Jenny Lewis is in good company. For her fourth solo album On The Line, the former Rilo Kiley frontwoman is backed by a VIP roster of talent that includes Beck, Ryan Adams, Ringo Starr, Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, bassist Don Was and session drummer extraordinaire Jim Keltner. Admittedly, those who still romantically view Lewis as an idiosyncratic and occasionally ironic indie darling might see all those high-wattage heavyweights as an odd fit. Truth is, they’re a perfect match. Partly because of Lewis’s actual professional stature and station — the former child actor has been doing pretty well at this music thing for more than two decades now, after all. But mostly, it makes sense because On The Line is the closest Lewis has come to making a bona fide classic pop-rock album. While the sounds of the ’70s have often factored into her music, these 11 songs find her comfortably making herself at home in the songwriting terrain of predecessors like Carole King (whose vintage Tapestry-era piano is played on several cuts) and Fleetwood Mac. Melodies are rich and soulful; lyrics are poetic and personal (and reportedly informed partly by the death of her once-estranged mother and the end of her long relationship with Jonathan Rice); her vocals have a pristine, timeless beauty; arrangements and production hew toward classic California-pop warmth and depth, updated with contemporary touches and textures. And the understated, laid-back performances of all those old pros help Lewis craft an album that truly puts everything on the line. And one that puts her in the same league as many of the iconic artists they’re better known for working with. Good company indeed.

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