cd review by Robert Urban
Down-home family values and good old-fashioned torch-song-type romance never sounded more intriguing than on singer-songwriter/guitarist JULIE CLARK's 2003 debut cd release FEEL FREE. This talented musician/lyricist instills an almost haiku-like poetry into her songs of everyday human emotions. The results offer rewarding introspective surprises at every turn of a verse or chorus.
Recorded with all live musicians, the style of Feel Free is some kind of acoustic/soft rock/easy-listening/country pop/blues. Its soothing, somewhat haunting sonic aura makes for a great accompaniment to not only serious listening, but also any kind of relaxation and/or contemplation. In fact, the opening track PRECISELY (WHAT YOU NEED) is an open invitation to unwind at home after a long day's work.
A real standout on this album is Julie's expert vocal harmony work. Her backup singing sticks like pitch-perfect butterscotch to her expertly sung lead vocals, and are on par with the best harmony work by artists like Alanis Morisette, Wilson Philips and James Taylor.
Interestingly, every song on Feel Free (except perhaps the last, delightfully Zen-like track GETTIN' THERE) is written in the second person - to a "you". Thus the album offers quite a direct, personal kind of listening experience, as we hear Julie really speak her heart to us. The characters she sings to all seem to exist in the local setting of her own home town - and with the many references throughout the cd to home and family - the listener is sent into a kind of modern Our Town, as if a resident of her own community.
With it's spooky, hypnotic vocal hook and pop-catchiness, the tune SHE'S MOVIN' ON might just be the breakout hit single from the album. Feel Free even includes a wedding song (as fine a one as any I've heard) called WHATEVER IT TAKES. This moving tribute to traditional love will surely find an extended life getting covered in weddings to come across the land.
My personal favorite track on Feel Free is the bittersweet ballad - YOUR WINGS, written by Julie to her mom and about her youth. The insightful lyrics on childhood remembrances (and especially the characterization of a child's idolizing love of mother), skillfully crafted from all kinds of everyday little kid memories, really struck an emotional chord with this listener. With each listen to this track I found myself recalling things about my own mom & childhood I had forgotten. The song made me cry.
The overall sonic production of "Feel Free" is crystal clear and beautifully transparent - with each instrument/vocal distinct, and with Julie's voice sitting nicely within the mix. One can even hear the "silences" and "spaces" within the soundscape on this cd - it was recorded so well. Musician/Producers Rich Mossman & David Mills contribute mightily to Feel Free, especially on drums & bass, respectively. Julie generously acknowleges all her co-artists in the cd booklet, and it would be a real treat indeed to hear the cd's cast perform live together.
Julie was voted 2003 Folk/Acoustic Artist of the Year from the Virginia Music Awards and was a Newport Folk Festival Talent Search Finalist.
JULIE CLARK - "FEEL FREE"
on GREAT BIG RECORDS
available at cdbaby.com
Music & Arts Reviews by Robert
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