Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Richard Julian

I don't remember exactly why I had been searching for Richard Julian's album Slow New York, but it quickly didn't matter once I began listening. Mr. Julian's rough-around-the-edges voice mixed with his deft guitar work immediately make the ears perk up. His lyrics tend to speak to life in the Big Apple while retaining "an unsentimental, yet tender meditation on the joys and disappointments of everyday living." Harp Magazine continues by saying, "Julian [displays] nimble lyricism as he sings his character-driven, keenly observational songs. With each clever, low-key, dusky line, he shows why we should sit up and notice him." On the flip side, a one Andy Hermann claims, "Richard Julian is one of those guys who's always this close to writing a great song. At his best, his prickly New York folk-rock bristles with wit and intelligence, but at his worst, he's capable of the kind of preciousness that would make James Taylor cringe. Too often, he veers between these two extremes within the same song, undermining his own brilliance with labored rhyme schemes and unconvincing stabs at soulfulness." Personally, I see how Hermann can say this since I'm usually pretty cynical and leery of musicians trying to be weighty or too witty, but Mr. Julian didn't do that too me. I took the songs in their context and enjoyed each of them for what they were. Not groundbreaking and not too witty upon the first couple listens. I supposed that repeated listens to songs like, "End of the Line" about being angry at a fellow customer cutting the line in a store would quickly grow stale.

One of the standout tracks though, is clearly "If A Heart Breaks," with it's boogie rhythm and catchy turn-of-phrase playing off the old philosophical question: Does a falling tree in the forest make a sound if no one is around to hear it? The album is noticebly well-produced as it should be thanks to Brad Jones the Nashville producer and bassist for Norah Jones. Norah even provides her sultry voice to backing vocals on a few tracks. Mr. Julian is familiar with this group due to his participation in the group The Little Willies with the likes of Ms. Jones. I think it's time to take a listen.

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