'Wheels Going By' is a slack-jawed and insouciant hymn to the pleasures of ridin' the rails, like some long-gone drifter; it's clackety-clack rhythms mirroring the motion of the boxcars. It's a happy tune for easier times. By contrast, 'White Dove's Awake' is all haunted melancholy, describing the inevitability of change and the impossibility of going back. The guitar chimes like Pink Floyd's 'Wish You Were Here', and when Eileen sings "The air's electric", it seem as if it really is.
"Two In One', next, is different again. Somewhere in the vicinity of "Highway 61", Eileen sing-talks her way through a dense, Dylan-esque lyric of febrile intelligence, which informs us how "it's not the time for bearing souls/Wearing weakness on your sleeve/Or being ugly".
She sure sounds pissed off about it.
From there we go to her paean to everyone's favourite gruff-voiced loser (and Eileen's artistic nemesis) in 'Tom Waits Crooning'. Over the tender chords and sensitive strings, Eileen remarks on how "You spend too much time thinking" before closing on "In the middle of the night/I'm wide awake/I'm covering it/I'm covering it". You better believe it; Eileen's up, burning the midnight oil, doing the emotional legwork so you don't have to.
Penultimately, stands 'For Marlene', a compelling, if chillingly uneasy, listen. Marlene is the mother of Eileen's best friend, who was murdered years ago. The song describes her mother's struggle to come to terms with this motiveless and still-unsolved waste of life. It's hard to think of many other artists who could deliver such an honest and moving treatment of such sensitive subject matter, and make you actually want to bear hearing it.
Finally, like welcome redemption, there is 'Big Dog'. 'Big Dog' is blinding, a big celebration of a song of the kind they don't write anymore. In it, nine year UK resident Eileen sings of returning to her native New England, and sounds pretty jolly at the propect. "Got time for one more pint/Don't get me wrong/You folks are alright/And it's been international/But I'm going home!" It could be The Band or Creedence , and joyous as it is, it leaves you with a definite desire to ring her up and urge her not to leave, not when we need her so bad.
'Long Shot Novena' was produced by Eileen with guitarist Kris Dollimore and pedal steel player Iain Harvey. It was recorded at Kris' house for 10 grand. Also playing on the record are Davey Bull (guitars/backing vocals), Mark Price (drums) and Barry Payne (bass). Glen Matlock guests on bass on 'Snake'.
'Long Shot Novena' is Eileen's second solo album, following on from last Spring's highly acclaimed 'Shine Like It Does' (also Rough Trade). She has toured with Ryan Adams, the Pernice Brothers, Ron Sexsmith, Eddi Reader, Ani Di Franco, Turin Brakes, extensively throughout Europe and America.
Eileen was born to Irish/Italian parents in Saugus, north of Boston, Mass., the youngest of nine children. She was previously in local bands Medici Slot Machine, Daisy Chain and Fledgling.