It’s all about the casting. When former child star Jenny Lewis plays Lucinda Williams (“See Fernando”), Blue period Joni Mitchell (“Acid Tongue”), or even Stevie Nicks-led Fleetwood Mac (“Black Sand,” “Pretty Bird”), she nails the role, but when she’s cast against type, the results are closer to the output of her actual acting career (Troop Beverly Hills, The Wizard).
She aims for Dusty Springfield (“Jack Killed Mom”), Aretha Franklin (“Trying My Best to Love You”), Marvin Gaye (“Bad Man’s World”), and inexplicably hits Jack White, James Blunt, Jessica Rabbit. In other instances (the Amy Grant-like “Godpeed,” the Carpenter-ish “Sing a Song for Them”), she’s aimed so small it doesn’t matter when she’s dead on. And then there’s the multipart, nine-minute “Next Messiah,” a true Jenny Lewis loyalty test that, whatever in god’s name might’ve influenced it, sounds like all the wrong parts of the Beatles’ white album giving Shakedown Street a Cleveland steamer.