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Non-Prog CD Reviews

Julie Roberts

Julie Roberts

Review by Gary Hill

When I was younger I wouldn't have touched country music with the proverbial ten-foot pole. As I've matured, though, I've found that all musical forms have artists of merit within them, and by closing out an entire genre, you are depriving yourself of some very good music. This album would definitely fall into that category. The truth of the matter is that this disc is very nearly a perfect album. The only real issue here is the fact that there isn't a lot of variety in terms of pacing. The vast majority of the songs here fall into the ballad category and therefore it would be easy to hear a certain similarity. That said, it's a testament to the strength of the material that the music is so well written and arranged that you don't really notice it.

While without question Roberts falls into the country music genre, in many ways this music has as much in common with the blues as it does with that genre. For that reason, fans of the blues should also find this release of interest. Yes, Roberts' voice does have a twang, and many of the country music instrumental mainstays are present, but this release is nearly as close to the works of people like Bonnie Raitt and Billie Holiday as it is to female country icons like Tanya Tucker and Loretta Lynn. Don't expect to hear the more pop oriented country sounds of such recent artists as Shania Twain or Faith Hill, though - this is legit. It's difficult when listening to this disc to believe that this is the first album from this South Carolina singer. So mature is the songwriting and singing that it would be easy to imagine this lady being a veteran with many years in the business. That said, Roberts doesn't have any of the songwriting credits, that honor going to veterans - but her vocal performance is certainly all her.

All in all this is a disc that shows that there is still talent out there in the mass-market media machine called the music industry. It would be easy to ignore a new artist like Roberts as being some under-talented over publicized media creation. If you did that, though, you'd be missing out on one of the new real talented people out there. I'm looking forward to seeing where Roberts goes next. She shows a lot of promise for a long and strong career of making quality music. That's hard to find in this day and age.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
You Ain't Down Home
This stripped down bluesy number has a killer acoustic based texture and the performance is just about spotless. This one is almost all blues.
Break Down Here
More country than the previous one, this track has a ballad driven texture and is another very effective piece. The song gains intensity as it carries on and should appeal to both rock fans and those who prefer country music. This is intelligent catchy country that avoids the modern pop approach to the genre. The double meaning on the lyrics is quite clever.
Pot Of Gold
Another that is essentially a ballad, this one is a bit of a contradiction musically. While in many ways this is the most twangy country on show thus far, it also features elements that would be quite at home in a Sting song and a cool Allman Brothers - like guitar solo. It's an unusual combo, but works well.
Unlove Me
Slightly bouncy, but perhaps even mellower than the other cuts, this feels a little like the more country ballad side of Janis Joplin, but with a more smooth arrangement.
Just Cause We Can
This is an upbeat bouncy mellow cut that's fun and hearkens back to the female balladeers of the '70's. This reminds me a bit of Rickie Lee Jones.
Wake Up Older
This is a nice evocative ballad that pays tribute to its country roots while still bringing in some more modern textures. This is another that is quite bluesy.
If You Had Called Yesterday
This one is more stripped down and country ballad oriented but gets quite lush on the chorus. It includes a tasty rock guitar solo.
No Way Out
This one is a cool country rocker that makes for a nice change of pace. It's just gritty enough and has a great honky tonk texture. This has a very cool instrumental break with tasty solos from everyone and a short rock a billy romp.
I Can't Get Over You
The mellowest sounds of the disc start this sad ballad. This is a pretty acoustic driven number that builds ever so slowly. It jumps up in intensity later, but is still slow and features some of the most traditional country sounds on show here.
Rain On A Tin Roof
Another ballad like one, this has a bit of the Rickie Lee Jones sounds along with 1970's Linda Ronstadt and a bit of Loretta Lynn thrown in for good measure. The piano accent, though, remind me of Bruce Hornsby. The arrangement gets quite intense.
The Chance
This is a bittersweet stripped down balladic number that works quite well and makes for a nice closer to the disc. This one is another whose arrangement is quite interesting and unusual.  

 
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