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Heaven knows why it has taken me so long to write a little something about this album, the newest EP from friend and soul sister, Julie Lee. Julie and I met several years ago at a friend’s house and found immediate ease in conversation and a unique connection; sparks of light and magic hung lightly in the air around our collision. It was one of those instances where you know for sure that the God of the Universe meant for you to meet this one particular human being out of the millions that He created. I know that sounds a little dramatic, but I like drama (the good kind only, please) and am grateful when I find it happening in my little life.
Julie is a consummate artist. She makes cornbread, she makes aprons, she makes songs that make me feel all brand-new, she makes art out of other rusty, splintered and otherwise used/aged things. If I ever knew a kindred spirit in creative expression, it is she. The night we met, we discovered — stumbled upon, really — an extraordinary alignment in our art’s paths. We will each vow to this day that we had never seen one another’s work and yet, here we were, looking at each other (and each other’s handiwork) as though we’d found our long lost twins. Her art is called “Truth for Twine.” Unique, evocative, rich.
I ran into Julie at the Americana Folk Festival back in October. I slid unsuspectingly into a tent in the Artist Village (what a nice place that would be to take up residence) and there she stood, in all of her handmade-aproned-glory — just the cutest sight you ever saw. She’s got dimples which I covet deeply, sweet, clear blue eyes, and a lilting, musical, twittering laugh. She’s entirely charming. While we sat discussing her latest musical musings, I inquired about her next work which I knew was due out soon. I had been waiting impatiently for quite some time for her next issue, you see. In true Julie form, she pulled a copy of her *yet unreleased* EP out of her quilted bag and handed it to me on the sly, refusing payment.
Dear reader, had I known what this music would do for my heart and soul, I’d have wrestled her to the dirt floor, hog-tied her (gently) and pressed a fresh fifty into her palm….but really, how can I put a price on such enchanting creations as Julie has wrought?
The record’s opener, “Petit Bebe,” twinkles and dances with windchimes, echoing guitar, and Julie’s ethereal, soft cooing. I imagine a sunlit morning, a mother with long ropes of chestnut hair twisted about on her head and dressed in light linen. She cradles her small child and prances barefoot through the dew beneath boughs of bright, new green growth in a grove of birch trees. I sound like a complete loon.
Track two, “Morning,” is a gorgeous, more deliberate continuation of the peaceful lull of the previous track. The lyrics are from an Emily Dickinson poem, and among my favorite lines from the album are these:“Oh some scholar, Oh some sailor, Oh some Wise Man from the skies! Please to tell a little Pilgrim where the place called ‘Morning’ lies!” The tune meanders delicately in and out of intensity. It glitters.
She advances further into Dickinson territory with track three “Hope’s The Thing With Feathers.” “And sweetest in the gale is heard; and sore must be the storm, that could abash the little bird that kept so many warm.” What a comfort is found in these words, and what a beautifully rendered portrait of Hope, set perfectly to an ardent melody by Miss Lee.
The gem, the real darling of this record in my estimation, is track five, “The Other Half.” It diverts from the warm-hued opening songs and takes me to a dark wood shadowed by verdigris, ultramarine and indigo. It breaks my heart and makes me ache in a place where I’ve never been wounded. It’s a song about the anguish of divorce. In her words, melody and instrumentation, she brings me a sense of sorrow that I hope I never have to feel in earnest. A plaintive tune, a single horn, low and soft like an old friend’s reassuring tone, and her lyrics: “The memory makes me cry, makes me think of you, of your kiss so slow, of your eyes so blue; What you said to me, whispered in my ear, made my knees go weak, filled my eyes with tears…” It is difficult to write about music like this without finally just saying with much conviction and a dash of frustration, “Just listen to it. You’ll feel it all.”
This brilliant lineup of eight tightly-knit songs rounds out with more melancholy than sunshine and settles me in a thoughtful, relaxed state. I am a firm believer that, if we think about it, each of us tends toward certain albums which serve as fitting soundtracks for life, depending on the seasons’ turnings. Songs have a way of meeting us in the strangest places, painting lovely scenes in our heads, healing our hurts, making us grin or sigh, and drawing us back to the One who first created the medium and its masters. And here, my dear Julie has masterfully and tenderly created yet another accompaniment just for me.